Devin Dearing Preston: NYC writer, playwright, and storyteller

Hey Dad,

August 1, 2011

So, I’m waiting tables still. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Nor, how pleased you would be about if you knew. I should be doing something else, no doubt. And yet, leaving the service industry for good has become more of  a challenge than I would have ever expected.

It’s not fair, but I blame you.

I’ll explain. After you moved out, restaurants were our place. Gilli and I never came to your house for the weekends. Was it because you moved around a lot? Bounced between different women and different levels ofinappropriateness for young girls. So instead of change your ways for your two growing girls or allow us to see what life actually looked like for you, you would always come and pick us up at Mom’s and we would go to some miserable chain restaurant for an hour or so. The quality depending entirely on how well you had been doing at shuffle board that week.

The Olive Garden, Ninfa’s, or The Woodlands Chinese House Buffet are some that stand out in my memory. I liked the buffet the most because I didn’t have to sit quietly by and watch you abuse the wait staff. You did it with such ease and consistency that I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t your favorite thing to do. Was it? To belittle them and order them about just so that you could feel important and powerful.

Do you remember when you got the tortilla soup at my favorite Mexican food place, Guadalajara, and asked for a “sliced” avocado on the side.

“You can always tell if a place is good, if they can bring you a fresh avocado, Dev,” was the wisdom that accompanied that request.

But the lesson I learned came after, as I watched you condemn the poor waiter for bringing you a “chopped” avocado, instead, and irately sending it back because “That’s not what I asked for, damn it!”  The importance of following directions carefully and the vast difference between chopped and sliced is also not the most valuable thing I keep from that late afternoon father-daughter dinner. The image that sticks out in my mind is of you, taking your fork to the second avocado, that had re-arrived sliced as you had demanded, and cutting it into chunks.

Chopping it, if you will. Do you remember that?

I’ll never forget it. I sat there amazed. The mental anguish you inflicted on that young man. For no real reason. Just for semantics. You were so proud of yourself, grinning on the inside for showing him who was boss. And I clearly remember thinking to myself, “Wow, my Dad’s a real asshole.”

But I never said it to you. Nope. Are you kidding? If you were capable of that much rage over an inaccuracy in the way a piece of fruit was served, what would the punishment be for questioning your character? Humiliation? Withdrawal of affection? Death?

So, I kept my opinion to myself. I mastered the art of inaudibly letting the waiter know, with my eyes mostly, that I was on their side. “I’m sorry he’s such a jerk! You are doing a great job!” My clenched apologetic smile attempted  to communicate. I only wish I could go back in time and tip each and every one of them more for having put up with your obnoxious ass.

I get guests like you from time to time: showing off, swinging their dicks around, being impossible just because its Tuesday. I’ve learned not to let them get to me. I pity them, mostly. The same way I learned to pity you.

When I allow myself to imagine how miserable their life must be in order to get pleasure out of treating me like shit, I can forgive them for their unkindness. The same way I forgive you.

Yet, some part of me is holding on to that nagging panic that bubbles up every time a real difficult guest starts making demands of me. Requires serious ass kissing and shit eating and service above and beyond the 15% tip they have already decided to leave. Well, 15% only after I jump through all of the appropriate hoops to earn it.

These experiences keep me close to you, Flynt. I want you to sit with that.

In your heart of hearts, I’m sure you would never have wanted your bright, talented daughter to grow up and take shit for a living. Certainly not because it reminded her of you. But, you probably didn’t want to drink yourself to death either?

I’m working towards leaving the service industry all together. Slowly moving away from people pleasing and care taking. Parting ways with the things I became so good at, because of you. I’m preparing to leave that part of you behind as well. Gulp.

I need you to help me remember the good things about our life together. Other ways, healthy ones if possible, that I can use to stay close.  Will you do that for me? If I promise to eventually do more with myself than wait on tables? Do we have a deal?

Love always,

Dearing

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Categories: Letters I Will Never Send

Comments (2)


  1. aunt carol says:

    August 2, 2011

    my darling devin! i so feel your heart and mine breaks for your courage to get these feelings out and most eloquently! your dad was one tough and egotistical man! my how i remembet the days that he would order your mom to retrieve his coffee! he and i had many of debates on his expectations on you girls and your mom! i loved him however as did you dispite his shortcomings as i saw thru that tough exterior and knew so well he was a hurting little boy on the inside! i however have never been able to forgive the pain and hurt that he inflected upon you girls including your mom! he did love you but he just didnt know how to show it! i am not defending him as i know how
    much it still sucks! God i wish he could have a do-over! i love you si much more thanyou know and feel your pain! stay strong Devin....you have come too far! i love your blogs! Reply

    • Dearing Preston says:

      August 9, 2011

      Thank you aunt carol!

      Your comment means a lot to me. A do over sure would be nice, wouldn't it. I'm super conflicted about this odd form of modern expression. Spilling family drama all over the internet. All I know is my love for writing is growing and my sadness is decreasing. Two great things. I see it slowly evolving into an interactive kind of blog, people writing things they never said. Much like you have done with this comment. Although we all knew how the family felt about dad's habit of ordering us about. Oh Flynt, the man too charming to ever fully hate. I am grateful for your support and thoughtfulness. That you took the time to reach out .

      I will say that I can't fully wish away these experiences. They have made me who I am. They are the reason for my courage and strength. They supplied me with a wealth of knowledge about the duality of life. One doesn't come by any of those easily. I love you dearly. I feel blessed that you are a part of my family. Give uncle lee my love. Reply

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