My dad's pretty great. I remember when I was a kid, one night we got takeout chinese food and for whatever reason, I decided that I wanted to eat as much as Dad did. He went up for seconds, I went up for seconds. (Note: I was probably like 8, and in my head, "eating as much as Dad did" meant "going for as many rounds as he did," not "actually having the same volume of food on our plates each time.") He went up for thirds, I went up for thirds. I remember my mom commenting that I must be hungry but in my head, I knew I just wanted to be like my dad.
He had this stuffed animal growing up, Red Ear. Red Ear is a little grey mouse just a bit bigger than my fist with proportionately GIANT red ears. (Of course. It is my observation that children are not often imaginative with their stuffed animal naming conventions.) Red Ear used to have a matching red shoestring tail, too. That was, until I got my hands on him as a wee tot and found out his tail made excellent chewing material. I chewed on that probably-very-filthy tail until one day it fell off and disappeared. These days Red Ear sits on my dad's desk at home. I want to get a tattoo of Red Ear, as a symbol of my dad, some day. Maybe I'll skip the morbidity and do it before he dies. Dad won't be a fan of the tattoo (because it's a tattoo) and it probably won't mean that much to him, but I have always respected, trusted and generally looked up to my father and I would like to have a tattoo honoring him somehow.
His brother's in town this weekend, stopping through on his way in between Shemya, Alaska, and Guam. We all had dinner together on Friday -- hoagies, because bless you, if you've lived in the Philly region and happen to stop through it later in life, a goddamn Capriotti's sub is what you want! -- and I got to learn more about their parents, specifically their mom. My dad's parents both died in the same year, in probably 2010. (Could be plus or minus a year, I guess.)
My dad's mom was NOT a nice person. She smoked like a chimney inside and out while the kids were growing up, she routinely broke paddles and yardsticks on her kids' asses as punishment, and according to stories I've heard was known to have shut household cats in the oven (turned off) and the dryer (also, presumably, turned off, although one version of this story I've heard doesn't end with the cat alive) when they pissed her off. I'm sure there's a lot more meanness I don't know about.
Apparently she was also the only one out of four children that lived, which is one of the things I learned on Friday night. Listen to this:
- A sister was wearing a Halloween costume near a candle. The costume caught on fire and the girl died as a result of the injuries she sustained
- Context: Cars used to have running boards. No, I don't have any idea what those are, but this fact is vital to the story of a brother who died because he saw an oncoming truck, attempted to run up the running board (I guess of the family car, in an attempt to enter it) and instead fell and was run over
- A third child, gender unrevealed by my family and possibly unknown to them (my mom/dad/uncle, that is anyway) was born with an esophagus which did not connect to their stomach and died either of starvation or of acid reflux (this fact varied depending on who was retelling the story on Friday night)
One out of four. What dismal odds. This was different times, then, so I'm holding back from making cracks about my great-grandparents and their perceived ability to parent well. (Or successfully.) (Yes, I know. Oof.)
I was not the only person who did not know all of these facts until Friday. My dad had never heard of the brother who'd gotten run over until then, either.
Anyway, that turned into a ministory about me and my dad, and a big story more about my dad's mom than my dad. Still, appreciated the opportunity to share.
As a bonus, on Friday my dad and uncle also told me about how you used to be able to go to McDonald's and get 12 hamburgers for a buck. Back then, the burgers were just that -- bun, patty, 2 pickles, top bun. You could get a slice of cheese slapped on top to make a cheeseburger and that was it. Apparently the first time my granddad saw a burger with lettuce and tomato on top he growled and said, "If I wanted a salad I'd have ordered one!"
What a freakin' trip!