This summer she realized something about her Dad she had never known before. Up until then she had never thought about him as being a real separate person. A lot of times he would call her. She would go in the front room where he worked and stand by him a couple of minutes — but when she listened to him her mind was never on the things he said to her. Then one night she suddenly realized about her Dad. Nothing unusual happened that night and she didn’t know what it was that made her understand. Afterward she felt older and as if she knew him as good as she could know any person.
It was a night in late August and she was in a big rush. Her Dad called and she went into the front room. He was sitting slumped over his workbench. For some reason it never did seem natural to see him there. Until the time of his accident last year he had been a painter and carpenter. Now when he couldn’t carpenter any more he had put a sign at the front of the house reading “Clocks and Watches Repaired Cheap.”
Her Dad just stared at her. She could tell he didn’t have any reason for calling. He only wanted real bad to talk to her. He tried to think of some way to begin. He still looked at her without speaking and she was in a hurry. Her Dad saw she was in a hurry and he cleared his throat.
“I got so much work to do I don’t know where to begin,” he said.
That was just the opposite of the truth, and he knew it good as she did. He never had many watches to fix, and when he finished he would fool around the house doing any little job that was needed. Then at night he sat at his bench, cleaning old springs and wheels and trying to make the work last out until bedtime. Ever since he broke his hip and couldn’t work steady he had to be doing something every minute.
“I been thinking a lot tonight,” her Dad said.
She was in such a hurry that it was hard to stand still. Her Dad noticed this. He tried to say something — but he had not called to tell her anything special. He only wanted to talk with her for a little while. He started to speak and swallowed. They just looked at each other. The quietness grew out longer and neither of them could say a word.
That was when she realized about her Dad. It wasn’t like she was learning a new fact — she had understood it all along in every way except with her brain. Now she just suddenly knew that she knew about her Dad. He was lonesome and he was an old man. Because none of the kids went to him for anything and because he didn’t earn much money he felt like he was cut off from the family. And in his lonesomeness he wanted to be close to one of his kids — and they were all so busy they didn’t know it. He felt like he wasn’t much real use to anybody.
She understood this while they were looking at each other. It gave her a queer feeling. Her dad picked up a watch spring and cleaned it with a brush dipped in gasoline.
“I know you’re in a hurry. I just hollered to say hello.”
“No, I’m not in any rush,” she said. “Honest.”
And I felt less alone.