Our father was a curious character, brilliant and highly skilled in his field, but often oddly deficient in mundane areas. When I lived in Spain, I would give a quick call home from a pay phone and instruct, “Call me in ten minutes!”
I would be home in under five minutes and would wait, and wait, and then wait some more for that phone call. I knew my dad had probably answered the phone in his study upstairs. The international calling instructions were by the phone in the kitchen. So he had to navigate through his study and the mountains of books and papers, down the back stairs. I knew he would stand in front of the instructions and would run his long bony finger over the words, tapping on the parts that seemed most complex. Before even lifting the receiver, he would mime out the dialing process, nod, then pick up the receiver and call.
It was excruciating, being an ocean and some land masses away and knowing that this man, who could solve almost any problem, was vexed by making a phone call.
Yet in his own way, he passed every test, and passed it well.
A case in point: once at dinner time, one of my brothers said,
“So, Tata, if you are a neurosurgeon, shouldn’t you be able to carve a turkey better than that? You’re so messy. I mean I was at Bobbie’s house and his dad carved up a big old roast chicken and it was way better looking than anything you ever cut up.”
Our father looked over his shoulder and answered, “Maybe… but I know how to put it all back together again.”