Dad got obsessed with poodles and firearms in his old age, but I didn’t know how badly until I came home.
The house smelled all musky and dogs were everywhere, teacups and toys and the big ones who fetch the ducks Dad hunts. Both couches were gone, replaced with glass rifle cabinets. When I took up my bags, three poodles were in my bedroom. Everything else — the bed, the bookcases, the shelves — was gone.
I asked my dad where my stuff went. He got quiet, then said he sold some things. That junk had been there for years. Besides, between food and the vet, the dogs were expensive and in this economy, guns and ammo weren’t exactly cheap.
I was furious: my comics, my trophies, my baseball cards, sold for an armory and a goddamned zoo? That was my childhood.
He said I didn’t understand. Nobody asked if he wanted to retire. Nobody wanted to hire an old engineer to consult. And forget about dating; my mom was only dead for two years, but it felt like two months. Meanwhile, I was 700 miles away, locked in a lab, too busy with my dissertation to write or call. At least the dogs need me, he said.
I knew from his face that he regretted that as soon as the words left his mouth. But you can’t unring the bell. So all I could do was promise to try and do better.