A man came to my bar this afternoon alone.
He was short with me.. Clipped.
He ordered quickly, and huffed a bit as he sat.
For a moment, I just pegged him for an asshole.
After I had made his drink, a Cinnamon Apple Sidecar, I got close, looked him in the eye, and asked him how his day had been.
“How are you?” I made a point to ask earnestly.
“I’m pissed off, frankly,” he said.

His daughter, a 27 year old “video professional,” had given him the run around all day.
She was supposed to have an early Easter dinner with him, but was stalling at a friend’s house.
The last he talked to her, she was still in her pajamas, and was just about to get in the shower.

He left a note for her at his house with the words, “You’re not allowed to treat me this way.”

He was hungry, and hurt, and felt that his daughter had no respect for him.
During our conversation he told me of his divorce when his children were young.
He said that both his son and daughter were “severely disappointed” by their mother, and came to live with him some years later.
Subsequently, he came into the role of friend over father, and this was a failure.
That she had developed a sense of entitlement.
That he hadn’t taught her respect.

He asked later if I was close to my father.
I told him that when he was alive, and I was young, I had done the same kinds of things to him.
That I, too, had developed a sense of entitlement.
That my Dad had, to a certain degree, done what Michael had done as I was growing up.
Tried to make up for the loss of my mother by coddling me.
That I hadn’t learned respect until very recently, and was still learning.
That I couldn’t imagine treating my father that way now.
That I wish I could have had more time to treat him better.

I wonder about Michael and his daughter.
How his perception of their lives together differs from that of his oldest child.
I wondered if my father would have told a stranger that he had failed.
I wondered if Michael had ever told his daughter that he had failed.
I wondered if his daughter didn’t care because he was, indeed, an asshole.
I wondered if he was just talking to me that way because he was hurt.

He said more than three times during his meal that he had wanted to avoid an argument.
To avoid a screaming match.
I wondered how many screaming matches they’d had in their lives.
He’d said that she’d needed to learn a lesson.

I asked if he would try to talk to her about it.
Tell her how he felt.
He said no.
That the note had been enough.

The whole exchange made me sad for her, and for him, and for me and my dad.

I also wonder what kind of man tries to teach their adult child a lesson without speaking to them.

After he left I got to thinking about the last months I spent with my father.
About how useless it is to feel the regret I do about that time.
That I could not have been older, and more equipped.
That I could not have been more, or less selfish.
That’s just the way it was, and will forever be.

I hope that Michael gives his daughter a chance to make it up to him.