What I've Been Writing

The Backup Singer (an excerpt)

These days, I’m inclined to think that my parents are going insane. I consider flying back home to see if this is true because, hey, these things are hard to gauge by telephone. They sound crazy when we talk, perhaps they’re displaying the first signs of dementia, but how can I be sure? Last week, my mother was going on and on about a recipe from some cooking show that she likes to watch on cable, and my father seizes the phone and screams that my mother has piles of clothes, magazines, and photo albums that are stacked up to the ceiling in the house. That I will find him dead and buried beneath a pile of junk, and don’t say that he didn’t warn me. Then my mother gets back on the phone (she’s calm) and resumes talking about shrimp frittata. My father continues yelling in the background.

Sure, if what daddy says is true, it would be easy to say that my mother is the crazy one in the relationship, except my father is a former entertainer and dramatic by nature. He was a backup singer for Motown, but he has always craved the spotlight. For years my mother and I suffered the brunt of his insatiable need for attention. This year, he has shared this character flaw with the entire country, writing a rambling op-ed that has been published in several papers.

He’s getting lots of media attention for the editorial from places like CNN. To me, the piece reads like a rant. It’s filled with conspiracy theories and self-righteous directives, yet underneath it all I guess there’s a moral truth that people are responding to. Still, this attention-grabbing behavior seems a little “extra,” even for daddy, so Mike and I talk about what’s going on and I purchase a roundtrip ticket to Michigan.

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