By Scott Morris
Tuesday is KFC day in Dad’s world so our lunch destination is settled.
That’s OK. People who stick around for more than nine decades deserve to develop a few habits.
Dad struggles out of his brown leather recliner, steadies himself, grabs the walking cane that his own father once used and heads for the carport door. An ever-aching hip seems to be the only thing that slows him down. He shrugs off all attempts to help him down the stairs with a stubborn, “I got it.”
We walk past his old crimson-colored Ford pickup to my SUV, manufactured by the same folks he saw in the Pacific Theater about 70 years ago.
On the way to the Tuesday all-you-can-eat fried chicken buffet, Dad gets that look in his eye, the one that tells me he’s up to something.
“Now when we get there,” he says with a mischievous grin, “You let me go first. I’ll tell them I want two senior discounts.”
This plan causes me slight consternation on two accounts.
First is vanity. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m old enough to get a senior discount. I throw away all that annoying mail from the AARP without opening it. My hair hasn’t turned gray yet and my face still has a boyish quality. I’m Dick Clark’s homely, chubby brother.
Second is the matter of ethics always present in my psyche after 30 years of journalism. Is it right to claim a senior discount when I am obviously too young to do so?
As I drive toward town, my boyhood plays out before my eyes, distracting my thoughts. Then Dad starts talking about one of his great loves, Alabama football. He describes the latest Nick Saban recruits in great detail, reciting heights and weights, and marveling that such giants are so fast in the 40.
For a second I wonder how many national championships he has seen and will see, but then my thoughts return to concerns about fraudulently claiming the senior discount.
Although I have grown children and a grandchild, I always feel like a boy in the presence of my dad. He fostered independence in me. He encouraged me to make my own decisions and to live with the consequences. He expected me to become my own man. But I am still his kid. And if he tells me to take the senior discount, I should obey, right?
I stop beside the front door and let Dad out while I find a space in a parking lot crowded with white Buicks and battered pickups. When I walk in, I find my father sharing a bench with a life-sized statue of Colonel Sanders. They look like old pals.
We make our way to the cashier and Dad orders, as planned.
“We’ll take two senior discounts on the buffet,” he says, taking a tray and leaving me to pay. He moves toward the fried okra and mashed potatoes with urgency, like a bank robber fleeing the scene of the crime.
That’s when I notice the cashier looking me over like a carny guessing a person’s height and weight at the county fair.
“How old are you, Hon?” she asks in a suspicious tone.
I answer, relieved to set the record straight, glad to let the cashier and the rest of the world know I am not yet old enough to claim a senior discount.
“Well,” she says, “you barely made it.”