Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dad memories on Father's Day

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. 

Saturday mornings, he'd make his shopping rounds and I'd go along until I was old enough to prefer my friend's company to his. He had a friend who ran a meat market - we'd stop there for chickens and beef. A drink of whiskey was always involved. The bakery was next - no whiskey but a little flirting with the sales clerk.  In the summer, we'd drive out to Bob's garden - a friend of the family who always had extra vegetables for us and the shot for Dad. Once in a while, we'd go to the grocery store where he never bought staples, always the curiosities, the exotica - things like Kangaroo Tail soup,  kippered herring, limburger cheese; the food my mother would never volunteer to have in the house. The shopping trips were jolly affairs - he was well-liked probably because he did everyone's legal work for free - will writing, property searches, specialty letter writing, bills of sale, notes. If we did visit someone who didn't offer him a drink, no matter the time of day, when we'd get in the car to go home, he'd say, "I wonder who they're saving the whiskey for?".

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.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful memories of a very interesting father!