Beyond Small Talk

How to Talk to Your Dad

If it takes a little work, it’s okay to treat it like work

Tom Chiarella
Forge
Published in
6 min readNov 21, 2019

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Illustration: George(s)

This story is part of How to Talk to Anyone, Forge’s guide to moving past the chitchat and truly connecting.

WWhen I was 13, my parents went to see a performance of the illusionist Uri Geller, who called my father up on stage and taught him how to bend spoons with his mind. According to my mom, at some point in the show, the spoon in my dad’s hand basically “folded itself in half.” She could not explain it. Suddenly my father could bend spoons with his mind.

In the coming months, my father bent spoons in my presence many times. He did it for his friends at cocktail parties and picnics. I begged him to tell me the secret. He would not. My brothers and I once witnessed the head of a teaspoon break off cleanly and clink down on the plate in front of him at Tuzz’s Pinnacle Grill on Monroe Avenue near the 490 overpass in Rochester, New York. My dad snapped a spoon in half with his mind.

I saw it.

But when I asked him how he did it, he wouldn’t tell me. He claimed he couldn’t let me in on it and cited some dopey magician’s vow of secrecy. That made me angry.

Up until then, I had pretty much worshipped the guy. He was handsome, funny, generous, well-liked. And now I was supposed to believe he had psychic powers. Once he started the spoon-bending routine, it seemed that we were on different teams. He was the star performer, and I was just another rube in the audience.

It mystified me. If he really had secret powers, then why wouldn’t I have inherited them? And if the whole thing was just some trick, why wouldn’t he teach the trick to me? I really stewed.

And I eventually stopped asking.

And soon after, I stopped asking him about anything.

Now I’m a dad myself. I just hung up after speaking to my 29-year-old son, August. I told him what I was about to write here: a short essay on talking to your father.

My son is a chef and was working at the loud end of some kitchen. I could hear baskets of silverware rattling. “Is it hard for you to speak to me as your dad?” I asked him.

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Tom Chiarella
Forge
Writer for

Tom Chiarella: 5 books, most recently: Becoming A Life Coach. Written for Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Golf, Outside, Runner’s World, O: the Oprah Magazine, Elle