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Month: July 2019

A Family Heirloom From Dear Old Dad

My Sister and Brother-In-Law, whose name is Robert, once purchased a hill just outside of a small, Mid-Western town of Paragon.

I’m not kidding.

Meanwhile, three states away, my father was getting screwed by the company he worked for.

Royally screwed.

Royally, Bend-Over-The-Counter-And-Spread-Your-Cheeks, maliciously and with great evil and greed SCREWED.

He floundered about after that for a while. This was a man who started working on the floor of a bearings plant and ended up as Division Vice President of Operations. My father was helping to run the company internationally, but that company was bought out by another, bigger company who let go the previous management, people like my father, who was just shy of his retirement. He tried consulting work. He managed a bar. Eventually, he got used to the idea of being retired.

So he and my mother bought a plot of land from my sister and brother-in-law and built a lovely home right beside the plot of land at the base of the hill where Robert and my sister had their prefabricated house that they purchased to live in while Robert acquired the equipment needed to build their dream home on top of the hill.

Have you got all that?

The dynamic between my father and Robert during the time that they lived in adjoining lots at the base of the hill was always in flux, and always verging on the volatile. Robert is quiet, strong, reserved, and my father was kind of loud, kind of brash, and because of his successful career, a little arrogant. My father told Robert once that his daughter was the apple of his eye, and that if he ever hurt her, he would kill him. On the other hand, one time they were discussing my sister, and my father, who apparently was a little irritated, said, “Well, I said what I said because I’m her father. She is my daughter.” Robert replied, “Well, I’m her husband. I’M the one railing your daughter.”

From there, a frosty detente was reached. For my father, his relationship with Robert had to change for the good of his relationships with his daughter and his wife. For Robert, he realized he loved my sister and also loved and appreciated our mother, so a decent relationship with my father was important to the happiness of his own house.

Unfortunately, my brother-in-law’s quiet resolve almost COMPELLED my father to poke at him until he got a response.

Now, I’ve gotten to this point and read this from the top, and I realize I am not really doing my father much good here. For the record: he was a very kind man with a very giving heart, who lived for his family and worked hard to raise us healthy, happy, and well adjusted. I love him very much and I miss him terribly. He is a Marine.

Hoo-Rah!

However, like all of us, sometimes he could be an asshole.

For instance, my father took to waiting in the very early morning, sitting grimly on a large rock that sat between their mailboxes, with a huge blanket around him. Eventually, Robert pulled up and saw his father-in-law sitting on a rock at four in the morning, head down, covered in a blanket.

Robert rolled down the window and asked, “Jack! What are you DOING?”

“I am going to a RAIN DANCE!” said my father, grinning manically with his eyes wide open. “THIS is the DANCE…of MY PEOPLE!”

With that, my father craned his head back, his face up to the heavens, opened his mouth, and began to loudly chant: “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHEY YA HEY YA OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHEY YA HEY YA…”, standing up and flinging off the blanket, he started to dance.

He was completely naked.

All 6’1” and 360 pounds of him.

Dad kept that up for almost two weeks.

Then, there was the time Robert came home to find the yard filled with pink flamingos. Another time, Robert found the doorstep festooned with flowers that had been thrown away by the caretakers of the cemetery down the street.

There was the time Dad put dead fish in Robert’s mailbox. There was the time Dad told Robert he knew all there was to know about construction equipment and building your own home, so Robert let Dad “help him”. Of course, Robert was not happy when Dad messed up Robert’s backhoe because he had no idea what he was doing.

A few days after Mom and Dad bought the lot beside my brother-in-law and my sister, Robert got a package.

It was from my father.

The box was pretty big. Perhaps it was that wide-screen TV? Inside, another box.

Inside that, another box.

Box after frustrating box, Robert kept opening boxes until he got down to a small jewelry box. He opened it, found a white rock and a note from my father:

“Dear Robert:
I want you to know that you are more to me than a son-in-law: you are truly a part of my family. This is why I have decided to bestow upon you a family heirloom. What you hold in your hands is a piece of what is known as “Snow Quartz”. It is very rare and very valuable and was picked up by my great-grandfather as a memento of the place where he was standing when a miracle occurred and kept him from being shot to death fighting for the Union in the Civil War. Please take care of it for me.

-J”

I know that Robert was amazed and astounded when he received this present, a beautiful gesture of love and trust from his father-in-law. Maybe it was time to reappraise the relationship with him, maybe cut him some slack.

He proved he was amazed and astounded by the heirloom because he went to a jeweler and paid to have the stone put into a gold setting so Robert could wear it on a chain around his neck.

He paid a lot of money.

Like “a couple of hundred dollars” lot of money.

A few months later, Robert was helping my Mom and Dad move into their new house. It was hot. Robert took his shirt off. Dad saw the chain around Robert’s neck and caught a good glimpse of the stone in its setting and began to chuckle. My mother looked at the stone around Robert’s neck, and back at my chuckling father.

“What?” said Robert incredulously. “You sent me this treasured family heirloom to look after, I thought it would be safer to keep it around my neck. It’s not every day that someone gives you a piece of rare Snow Quartz. Even the jeweler was impressed!” he explained.

Mom sighed, rolled her eyes, put both hands on her hips , turned to my father, and grumbled: “You didn’t TELL him, did you?”

Dad stood up, wiped the smile from his face, walked over to Robert and put one of his big, meaty hands on my brother-in-law’s shoulder. “Robert, I love you like a son. You love my daughter, she loves you. I admire your work ethic and I meant everything I said in that note about how I feel about you.” My father was grinning and frantically trying not to laugh; looking down at the stone Robert was wearing around his neck, and said, “But that is one of my kidney stones that I had taken out when I had that surgery nine months ago.”

Dad put his arm around Robert and chuckled a little as he led Robert to the bar, so he could have a beer. “Look, I KNOW that this isn’t a rock picked up from a Civil War battlefield by one of my ancestors, but look at it this way: I gave you an actual piece of myself. That came out of my body! Out of the kidney, actually! That rock was blocking my URETHRA! I couldn’t PISS because of THAT ROCK!”

And that’s partially why I am the way I am.

Traffic Court

Ah, Traffic Court…where those possessing a lead foot gather to mourn the loss of money and gain points on their license. I was dreading it, but found out it’s nothing like I expected.
Yes, I was speeding – 17 miles over the speed limit; 42 in a 25 mph zone. I had no idea…I had the windows open and was singing loudly as I zipped down a small tertiary road where I lived…then I got waved over. The nice young officer said, “Look, plead Not Guilty, pay the amount on the ticket for a Not Guilty plea. You’ll have to show up at Traffic Court, but chances are you’ll only get 2 points max instead of 5.” Sounded good to me, because I did not want an increase to my auto insurance.
I started getting letters from attorneys…vultures, really, who troll the police reports that are public record. I started to worry a bit…did I really need one? Pfft, I’ll wing it. What could go wrong?

On court day, I scoured my closet, looking for something that said I was serious, mature, contrite…who am I kidding? My wardrobe consists of jeans, yoga pants, and a collection of tee shirts not suitable for court. I mean, wearing a shirt that says “Beautiful Badass” isn’t exactly serious, mature, and definitely not contrite.

I show up for the 2:00 hearing and find approximately 40-50 other people in the room, most who looked like they just came from the gym or gardening. And I was worried about clothes?? They call your name to check you in, and at one point the clerk announces that “we have a married couple here today – the Mulhollands. Everybody give them a round of applause!” So we did, with a few doing the Wave.
It became apparent this was a bit of a joke, because if you paid your $161.50, you could leave…and no points. THIS is what I go worked up about? And it’s not reported to the state. Do the math – 40 people x 161.50 = $6,460. And this was just one group!! The Mafia could learn something from these guys…
Oh, and the judge never showed his face… I wonder if the Honorable John Hunter even exists.

My Dinner at Virgilio’s

I’ve had some interesting dates in my life, but none was as scary and weirdly funny as my dinner at a place called Virgilio’s in Philadelphia. It was owned by a mobster named Phil “The Chicken Man” Testa, who was immortalized in a Bruce Springsteen song.

Virgilio’s was a small Italian restaurant tucked away on a small side street in the city. The guy I was dating was not Italian, and he was totally fascinated with the Mafia. Yep, lucky me. It was the kind of place where you were asked to check your guns at the door by the two behemoths who let you in.

So we get seated in the middle of the room. Now, if you don’t know anything about the Mob, sitting in the middle of the room is the LAST place you want to sit. You want a table by the wall, and every man in the place was facing the door. You see where I’m going with this?
Our lovely waitress, Nancy, comes by to take our order. Date was so thrilled, he ordered a bottle of champagne. As the cork is being removed, it popped with such force, it made a loud noise – I mean LOUD.
Men dove under tables, behemoths came charging in, guns drawn, and out of the back room comes Chicken Man himself, with what looked like a Thompson submachine gun. I froze, Nancy burst into tears, and Date looked like he was enjoying this a little too much.
“What the fuck is going on?” Chicken Man bellows. Nancy tearfully holds up the bottle of champagne. “I’m sorry, Mr. Testa. It just exploded.” He looked, nodded, and returned to his meeting in the back.

Have I mentioned at this point I’ve lost my appetite and couldn’t wait to get out of there? But nooooo….Date was grinning from ear to ear, like the kid who got the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka.
Men climb out from under tables, tuck their napkins back in, and go back to their meals, while the wives looked on nonplussed. Was I the only person in this place who just about wet her pants?

Needless to say, it was the last time I went out with him….and two weeks later, Chicken Man was blown up by a bomb placed in his front door.