The Road Most Traveled

Dad best

Some of the clan in front of the infamous kitchen bathroom door.

In our house, sometime in the late sixties, right about the time we found out that Ken Kesey had used the term “cuckoo’s nest” without our permission and our father stopped thinking he was Jake LaMotta, we would sit around the kitchen on Sunday mornings and tease each other about our shortcomings (mostly instigated by my mother) and of course, with all the denials and signifying it got to be quite rowdy. My father had  become almost civil by this time (more likely, worn down) and enjoyed looking at the mess he made. Picture twelve people in a very small, smoke filled kitchen with the only bathroom, a converted pantry right there next to the fridge.

The only thing that made the escaping noxious odors tolerable, was the smell of bacon and burnt toast. Most of us had acquired hangovers by then and the sounds emanating from the toilet/pantry would be the cause for groans in unison and the sounds of silverware (a fork, maybe) hitting melmac. God help the poor bastard who emerged from there to a chorus of “close that goddam door, whaddya dead?”

The five girls, with the exception of one, found nothing humorous in the functions of the human body full of day old Ripple and stale cigarettes. It was a cacophony to be sure, until someone would inevitably say, “Dad, tell us some of the stuff Bobby would do when he was a kid.” This was never a good idea. Nobody even knew what a therapist was back then. This usually always ends badly…for me.

He’d light an L&M, sit back in his boxers and revel in the joy of all my travails, pooping in people’s cars, stealing the Xmas bulbs off the big tree in Davis Sq., tipping over all the ash barrels on the street so it looked like a war zone and when he sent me out for the Sunday paper for the first time, I thought I’d save him the quarter and scooped all the neighbor’s papers and brought them home. He would spend the rest of the day trying to find out where they came from. He loved to hear the gasps and the “Oh my Gods” as the stories got more insane and horrifying.

But then, as we know, all good things have to come to an end. During one of his declarations of victimhood and why, when he dies, he should just be waved through at the Pearly Gates after all he’s been through, something would snap. Whose fucking idea was this anyway?

The aggregation of aggravation would reach its tipping point and he would start to get somber. Slowly, quiet spaces in his speech would betray the dark imagery that was starting to settle in behind his eyes. My mother would narrow her gaze at me signalling it might be time to go. By now, he was morose and silent. He didn’t even notice me slip out the second floor kitchen window. He would slowly pick up his paper, his cigarettes and his shaving bag and shuffle off to his room without a word. I thought I heard him sobbing in there once.

I’ve been thinking about him a lot lately. He died at 57. From cancer, not exasperation, as one would expect. I hated him. He hated me. But I miss him now. We would get each other now, I think. We could just look at each other and never speak and communicate everything between us. There are no flowery phrases or regrets to be spoken just, thank you.





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