A Simple Question

“How’s your dad?” As I walked along, the question echoed in my mind.  Seemed nice of him to ask.  I thought to myself, “How’s my dad? Well, he seems to be doing pretty well for an 81 year old man with his medical history.” We’d just flown down for a visit a couple weeks prior and got to spend some time with my folks.  It was nice to see them in their new Floridian home and they seem to be enjoying the southern climate over our New England winter.  It was a short visit though. As I turned the next corner I began to wonder again, “How is my dad?  I mean, how is he really?” The funny thing is though, technically, nobody asked me.

“How’s your dad?” Just a simple little question and yet the more I thought about it, the more remarkable it seemed.  I’d parked the truck at the playground behind the town library and had just begun taking the dog for a walk when I’d overheard it.  Two boys that looked to be about 10 years old were enjoying the unseasonably warm January weather. They were shooting hoops on the basketball court wearing shorts and t-shirts and I just happened to pass within earshot when I overheard one ask the other, “How’s your dad?”  – That’s a nice question. Simple. Curious.  It seemed to be genuine.  But the more I’ve thought about it since then the more impressed I am with it coming from a boy my son’s age.  Can I remember when I’ve asked any of my friends such a simple yet meaningful question in earnest?  I’d have to think about it and I’m a considerate, self-aware, sentimental and good-willed grown up… despite my sarcasm, a ‘complicated’ personality and ‘sharp’ wit, of course.
“How’s your dad?” What a great little question between friends.  I had already walked on before the question had even registered in my mind so that’s all I’d heard of their exchange.  I don’t know what the answer was.  Perhaps the other guy just shrugged it off before taking his next shot. I’d imagine what prompted it in the first place.  It seemed nice that he’d ask about his friend’s father, but that’s not really what resonated with me. Rather, it struck me that this little kid seemed genuinely concerned for his buddy. It was unsolicited interest. He may have known something relevant to the father, but that’s not the point.  His casual question meant more. “How’s your dad?”  “How’s that thing that has an affect on you?” “How’s that part of your life that had nothing to do with me?” Ultimately, “How are you?”
Was that the start of a lifelong friendship? Will they reminisce about this time in their childhood from a seat like mine 30 years from now or will it be long forgotten? I wonder when my own son’s may find friends like that. They’re not easy to come by.  What’s more, will they BE friends like that? I doubt any of them give it a second thought as the ball bounces off the rim. “Did ya even hear the question, son?  How’s your dad?”
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