an exercise in digression

My father has IBS.  It’s not a degree; it’s a disease, which people will Rolodex as a condition.  It’s not one of the big ones people whisper; it’s Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Bowel sounds an awful lot like bowl.  What an appropriate condition, as my father and I discuss the shape and condition of his terds over the phone, while he’s sitting on the bowl.  I don’t mind.  It’s really love when you can chat, or even better, flush, while you’re on the phone.  It’s one of those lines I like to cross, like sharing a toothbrush, or peeing with the bathroom door open. 

From dealing with the condition, he’s learned some meditation techniques.  He often instructs me to breathe and focus on a tranquil place, like a beach, or somewhere near a brook.  Of course I don’t think I’ve actually ever encountered a brook, but I get the idea of what a brook experience might be. 

“Feel the sand on your feet, the sun heating your face, the gentle breeze, the smell of coconut and sand.”  Okay, I can do beach.  The truth, though, is that I don’t really love the beach.  I love the water, and anything on the ocean, but I can do without the sunburn and sand bit. 

Wave pools did it for me for a while, but the idea of a public pool has become less appealing over the years.  Especially with signs hovering on the water park walls, “Welcome to our ool.  Notice there’s no P in it.  Please keep it that way.”    

My father created a compromise between beach and pool; it’s called a fish tank, or if you’re fancy, you can put on airs and cough out “Oh, do come see my aquarium.”  It’s like calling your bookshelf a library.

In middle school, we’d sit in the moldy TV room together.  He’d pepper a tank and force me to witness the fish gulping the falling flakes.  “Steph, you gotta come see this.”

“That’s okay.”
“You gotta. It’s fascinating.”
“They’re eating; what’s so fascinating about that?” I didn’t look up from my notebook.
“You just gotta watch this.  It’s so relaxing.”
“Well which is it?  Fascinating or relaxing?”
“Come see this guppy.”

Fish never did it for me.  I remained seated, covered in textbooks and white-ruled papers, a large 3-ring binder with attached clear pencil case.  He’d listen to the ballgame and watch the fish feed on shrimp-smelling flakes.  When the ballgame became too loud for me to concentrate on my work, I’d never complain.  I was happy just to be near him. 

“I like that one.”  I pointed to the token fish, invited only to suck the slime from the sides of the tank.
“That one? Ew, grossatating,” Dad mocked.  “Don’t you like the Neons?”
“No, I like the bottom-dweller.”  Then I thought of his off-color lawyer jokes and wished I hadn’t reminded him.




  1. There's a lesson in there SOMEWHERE.

    Your Dad was trying to steer you away from the scum-sucking bottom-dwellers, yet you both ended up with annoying little sh*ts.

    You got rid of yours eventually. Here's hoping he gets rid of his!

  2. steph,
    please publish the book.
    i am doing my eyes in reading this everyday.
    ibs……not a nice one

  3. steph,
    please publish the book.
    i am doing my eyes in reading this everyday.
    ibs……not a nice one

  4. steph,
    please publish the book.
    i am doing my eyes in reading this everyday.
    ibs……not a nice one

  5. from sex romps to father-daughter time, no one writes as resoundingly as you! thank you for helping to cultivate memories and feelings for me.

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