parting advice

I call my father every week, just to keep in touch. It's a conversation nobody would be very interested in, except for the part at the end. I feel like he feels each conversation will be our last, like he knows he's not going to get this chance again. I say, "Good talking to you," like I always do, and there's a pause.

"You, too," he says. He starts to say something a few times. I wait, patiently. He gives me some advice--be polite. Be a good guest. Be a good host. Make the world a better place than when you found it.

I say, "Yeah." I say, "I do what I can." I say, "I love you." I never say, "It's all I ever try to do, Dad. Thanks so much for giving me the only advice that means anything."

There's so much he's taught me, so much he could leave me as parting advice. He could try to imprint his philosophy on me, his beliefs, his politics. But in the end all that's important is that I don't make a mess, don't make anybody mad. Be a welcome guest and a gracious host. Try to leave the world better than when you found it.

He never says, "The world's a mess. Try to clean that up." We both know neither of us would settle for anything less.

[File this one in the department of 'Oh, I meant to hit the submit button on this last night.' -Ed.]

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