That seems to be the question on everybody's mind these days.
UPDATE: The New York Post reported that Phelps' dad admitted he has not had a single conversation with his Olympian son since Michael left for Beijing, nor has he congratulated him on his eight gold medals: "He's so busy, I'm not sure even his agent can get a hold of him," he said. He did also say he's been watching his son every single night on TV.
In interviews, Michael has been outspoken about the sacrifices his mom made raising him, like managing his busy training schedule as a single mom. But what about Dad? Phelps' parents, Fred and Debbie, were high school sweethearts. Both parents were very involved in their children's swimming. "When we started, my dad would be up at 4 a.m. on the mornings I had 5:30 practice," said Michael's sister Hilary. Eventually, the family relocated to be closer to the aquatic center.
But over time, that special bond between the former high school sweethearts began to fade. "It was like a storybook [marriage], but sometimes chapters go in different directions," Debbie told the Baltimore Sun. "We were close, but we grew apart." Fred and Debbie separated when Michael was just 8 years old. After they divorced, it was Michael's mom who drove him to practice twice a day, spending Saturdays going from his games to practices and back. The gulf between father and son grew wider. Although neither will say publicly exactly what caused their rift, Fred Phelps (who is a Maryland State Police Officer) and Michael did not speak for several years after Michael's high school graduation party. Fred didn't even attend the 2000 Olympics. "Two days after he graduated," Fred told the Baltimore Sun, "he said he didn't want me to go to Barcelona because I hadn't been around. This is his world, and I'm just watching him travel through it. People ask me how he's doing, where he's swimming next, and it's hard to say that I don't know."
When asked about the rift, Michael has said: "There are reasons, and I really don't want to get into that. He didn't call me after I set my first world record in 2001. He didn't call me after Barcelona either." Michael's dad remarried before the 2000 Olympics and was most recently living in Linthicum, Md.
"We'll throw e-mails back and forth every now and then," Michael said of his dad in early 2004. Shortly thereafter, the Baltimore Sun reported that Michael did reconcile with his father, but they've since drifted apart again. Fred Phelps was in Greece, but obviously was not in Beijing.
When contacted by the Baltimore Sun for an interview a few weeks back, Fred Phelps declined, saying he didn't want to take away from his son's accomplishments by going into the family story. "This is just about Michael," he said. "This is his glory, his time to shine, and I want him to get everything he wants." But Fred said he is watching the Olympics back in Maryland: "I'm just on pins and needles every time Michael hits the water."
So are we, Fred. So are we.