As a younger woman, I got high a lot, and for almost purely recreational reasons. I was a party chick in the late 90s. I went to raves, and like totally felt the music. I went to music festivals that involved tents and people selling glass handicrafts. I wore cowrie shells and hemp and the most disgustingly filthy Birkenstock sandals you’ve ever seen. I stank of patchouli, incense, ocean water, and, well, stink. My toes were always dirty, and there were crystals woven into my hair on multicolored strands of embroidery thread. I made sneering comments about “nine-to-fivers,” and I swore I would never fall victim to the “Babylonian rat race,” whatever the fuck that was. I was, in short, the archetype of a pot smoker, to people who don’t smoke pot.
These days, I still smoke pot, and yes, sometimes for recreational reasons (although it does also keep me functional on migraine days better than anything I’ve ever been prescribed by a doctor), but things are different now. Let me break it down for you: I am a highly educated professional woman who does important work really goddamned well. I am a loving partner, a good friend, and a rescuer of dogs. I have a work ethic and a social conscience and all of that other good shit that makes people contributing members of society.
I also have a father and a phone phobia. A father who I love unconditionally and admittedly perhaps worshipfully. I’m a Daddy’s Girl like nobody’s business; my father is a damn superhero and he can kick your dad’s ass. But…he calls me a lot. Like, a lot lot. And that’s where the phone phobia comes in, because frequently when he calls I just. Can’t. Do. The phone thing. And I feel guilty about that. I do. He’s my daddy and I love him and I want to be there for him like he has always, 100% of my entire life, been there for me.
He’s doing something heroic and somewhat dangerous right now, working in disaster relief in the aftermath of a catastrophe that I won’t name for reasons of anonymity (sad that there are enough of those that you won’t be sure which one I mean, but that’s another blog post for another day). It’s hard on him; I can hear it in his voice when he calls. And he calls all the time. Three or four times a day, my phone rings, and I weigh the anxiety against the need to be there for my father.
Yesterday, something really scary happened to my father, in the course of his heroics. He called me when it started, told me he loved me. You know. That phone call. The one where the subtext is, “I am not 100% sure that I’ll get another chance to say this to you, so just in case…” The one that says “Shit is maybe going pretty wrong around here.” I was a high-strung, crisis mode mess, which for me entails drinking copious quantities of tea, googling the thing that is happening obsessively, and messaging terse little updates to the people who love me.
He called again an hour or so later to let me know that the danger was past, he was safe and well, he was alive. I was a mess again, but this time in that “I can stop being terrified now, so now I’mma feel all the feelings I was refusing to feel for the last hour all at once” kind of way. When I got done blubbering, I kicked back like a motherfucker.
Several hours into my kicked-back-ness, when I was very pleasantly buzzed and playing a little Assassin’s Creed III, Dad called back. And I panicked a little. What if he knows? What if he can tell? What if he’s disappointed in me? Then I remembered that I am a grown ass woman with a house and a car and a job and a husband, and I calmed the fuck down and answered the goddamned phone.
Do this. If you’re a person like me who dreads the phone but has parents who irrationally demand to speak to you on it, get a little bit high. Not “giggling at the refrigerator” high, or even “let’s order three pizzas, a bag of tacos, and some crab rangoons” high (maybe those are just me). Just…chilling out high. And then talk to your folks.
My dad needed to decompress. He needed someone to listen to him talk, first about the disaster that almost happened to him, then about the people he’s working with, and then about…stuff. Stuff like the best boss he ever had back in the 60s, or professional athletes in various eras. Stuff like how much he depends on me and my mother when he’s out in the field doing these crazy heroic things that no sane man in his late 60s would do. Stuff like anything he could think of that wasn’t the scary situation he’d been in earlier that day. And I listened.
Ordinarily, my goal for phone conversations is to keep them short. I really, honestly, get anxious and even panicky when I spend too long on the phone. The result of this, I suspect, is that it really fucking sucks to talk to me on the phone. I cut people off, invent minor household crises, and at a last resort have been known to say “What? Are you there? Hello?” and hang up. I know, I’m a dick, and I’m trying to work on that.
Last night though, I was present with my father in a way that I haven’t been able to be in years. I didn’t just listen to his stories as penance for having been an outlandishly wild teenager (see paragraph 1), or out of some sense of duty or guilt. I listened to them. And you know what? They’re pretty fucking good stories. My dad is an interesting guy.
More important than my enjoyment of the conversation, though, was the good it did my father. He loves me, and it astonishes me and makes me proud as hell that I’m a person he calls when he needs advice, or someone to bounce ideas off of, or just to hear a sane and supportive voice. And too often, I brush him off. I send him to voicemail, or I let the phone ring while my teeth grit in panic so he might assume that I am busy and not ignoring him, or I answer and say “Hi Dad, what’s up?” in the brusque no-time-for-this voice I generally reserve for students with particularly ridiculous excuses.
Not last night though. Last night I committed a crime, and it was the best decision I could have made.
This is the part of an essay where I’d tell my students to consider adding a “call to action.” I guess I could point out that marijuana laws are foolish and antiquated (they are), or that you should write or call your representatives encouraging them to rethink those laws (you should, and they should). But mostly, I’m just happy my daddy is OK, and that I got to have a meaningful conversation with him at a time when he really needed it. So in light of that, get high and call your parents. Or just get high. Or just call your parents. Or whatever. Peace.