This afternoon, while watching tv with my father, the subject of elephants came up. He was watching a nature show of some sort and saw something about an elephant harness. “That’s what we need,” he said, “an elephant harness!” “Then we would just need an elephant.” I replied. “Not necessarily…” was his responce. Immeadiately the conversation turned to what a person could do with an elephant harness. Stand outside shopping malls holding the elephant harness and tell people you had lost your elephant, we thought. See if you could get anyone to help you look for your elephant. Drag the elephant harness to the office of the local newspaper and try to get them to include an ad for your missing pet. My dad began reciting a description of the elephant (grey, about ‘so’ high, big ears, etc), suddenly I chimed in with, “Answers to the name name Packy. If I had an elephant I would name him ‘Packy, or maybe ‘Ethyl’.” We laughed and the conversation died down, but I began to wonder what it says about you if you know instantly what you would name an elephant if you suddenly aquired one.
A lot of my conversations with my father are like this any more. Eliptical and strange, tangental flights of fancy. He watches considerable television and we talk about that, sometimes rather normally, about old movies and the names of various actors or our favorite John Wayne western. Other times however, we stray into things like, what color the dinasauers were, or why advanced alien species would mess around helping us build pyramids, or how the collapse of the sasquatch hunting industry might effect the economy if they ever find him, and of course, what you would name your elephant. My mother mostly stays out of these philosophical dicussions, only rarely succumbing to the impulse to tell us that she cannot see what possible difference it makes. Sometimes she does leave the room though. Usually to go grumble in the kitchen. She thinks we are quite mad I know, but oddly enough, somehow these conversations of conjecture have caused me to know my father much better than I ever have before. These sorts of speculations would never have happened when we were younger. In some fashion, by playing, “let’s pretend” it is possible to slip behind the mask and get to know the man on the other side. And I find that there is a mind much like my own, belonging to a person who, after a couple of minutes, also knows exactly what he would name his elephant. It’s entirely possible I may end up liking the old boy yet.
Oh, and by the way, Dad says he would name his elephant, “Fella”.