Once in a while, Dad stayed late at the legion, shooting the breeze and drinking beer. As dinner was long since over, everyone would be in bed but he'd be hungry. When I was just three or four, he'd tip-toe into the bedroom, wake me up and sit me down in the kitchen with him while he made one of his two specialties: chili (open the can and heat) or curds and whey (heat buttermilk until the curds coagulated and floated to the top). Talking all the time, he'd get his feast together with a box of crackers and tell me about the wars. I barely remember this (only that he'd put the telephone book on the chair for me to sit on) but many years later, my mother told me about these late night feasts when she would be remembering what she didn't like about my Dad. I do remember the thrill of having Dad all to myself. And I still love curds and whey.
Once a year, he would take my sister or me - it would be just Dad plus kid, to Child's restaurant downtown on a Saturday where we'd have a chocolate sundae. Mom would get us all dressed up for the occasion and Dad was clearly showing us off. The waitresses would all make a fuss over us and Dad made the excursion into a very special occasion.
As we grew older, the "showing us off" scenario started to become a real drag. The last time this "showcase of daughters" took place was one unfortunate Christmas Eve at a Legion party. Even at 9 and 15 years old, my sister and I knew it was a mistake for us to play "O Holy Night" - me on the violin and her on the piano at 8:00 in the evening. The drinking had started late in the afternoon and the audience consisted mostly of plastered WW1 veterans. As my Dad sat beaming, I squeaked and sawed, Eilleen pounded the keys and cries of "Take if off honey" and other similar encouragements rang out. Dad, shocked and surprised, realized the folly of the thing and bundled us off home. Mom barely spoke to him for a month.