I have lived in Portland, Maine, for most of my adult life, and on occasion my father would take my son Tom and I out to eat.
DiMillo’s was one place we went now and then. It is an actual boat on the water that has become a main attraction of the city: a floating restaurant! Great food! A little more money than the average restaurant, but totally worth it just for the experience; and did I mention? Great food!
Well, my father always liked to “treat” whenever we went out. Even when I had a good job, he would insist on paying the bill. I would offer to pay now and then but he would not allow it. Literally.
But I wanted to be able to express my affection and gratitude for all he had done for us over the years, and I realized that the only way I could do so was to be a bit sneaky. So one night he invited then-10-year-old Tom, and I and a few others, to DiMillo’s, and the plot was hatched. I was going to pay the bill, whether he liked it or not!
So, soon after we’d arrived and been seated, I excused myself “to go to the rest room,” and sought out our waitress. “No matter what he says or does, I am paying for the check,” I told her, and I gave her my debit card number in advance.
Well, come time to order, my father leans back and says, “get whatever you want.” My son Tom, who’d come to love lobster, decided to order not one, but TWO lazy lobsters. Lazy lobsters are one whole lobster taken out of the shell and served with a generous amount of butter and who knows what-all; it’s delicious, and at the time it was $25. a pop. “Tom,” I nearly hissed, thinking of my poor debit card, “I think ONE lazy lobster is sufficient.”
“Oh, no,” said Dad, patting his stomach and throwing an arm across Tom’s shoulders. “Let him get what he wants.” He smiled. I smiled. Tom got his two lazy lobsters.
Afterward, there was a full round of dessert. Coffee. Dad finished his last sip of water and looked around for the waitress. Took another sip of what was now cold coffee and grimaced. But not because of the coffee. Tom, full of lobster and ready to go run around on the wharf, was oblivious. My wallet was crying. Dad continued to crane his neck looking for the waitress.
Finally my father, visibly upset, got the waitress’s attention. “We’re WAITING on our CHECK.”
Beaming, and winking over at me, the waitress says, “The check’s taken care of, Sir.”
Her smile faltered a little. “It’s been paid. Your .. your daughter …”
He turned flashing eyes on me. “You did not.”
“I did.” I was smiling, but having a hard time holding it in place. He REALLY was not happy. I could tell by the look in his eyes.
Tom, oblivious, hopped down off his chair. “We ready to go?”
“We sure are, honey,” I said.
I’m still not sure that I did the right thing. I was proud to be able to “provide,” for once. But my dad really never liked that I’d done that. It was HIS job to take care of his baby girl, not the other way around.