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A Stranger for my Strange Dad

For as long as I can remember, my father has talked to strangers. Not in a “hi, nice to meet you” sort of way. More in a “I’m going to barge into your meal and start talking about refinishing antiques and Braves baseball in the 1970′s, and I’m going to tell weird jokes no sane person would ever understand, and I’m going to be completely oblivious to the fact that you want to spray me with Raid to make me go away and leave you alone.”

In fact, when people squirm and try to humor him, Dad senses their discomfort. It fuels him like nuclear energy. The more strangers act like they don’t want to talk to him, the more determined my father becomes to lurk around their table.

We cooked dinner last night for him and Mom as a combined Mom’s birthday/Father’s Day gift, and Dad was disappointed. He wanted to go out to eat, because he didn’t want to spend a meal talking to us, his family. No. He wanted to find a nice, packed restaurant and proceed to make the rounds to every table in the place and tell them all about the dead body he picked up from Marion, South Carolina yesterday afternoon.

And, he doesn’t even try to make the rounds sometimes. He will just shout at a random diner who makes the egregious error of eye contact with my Dad. “Hey! You should’ve seen the dead body I picked up yesterday! Hey! Dead! Body! DEAD!”

I have been cursed with this behavior for the length of my memory. When I was a tiny girl, my Dad took me to his hangout, sat me up on a twirling stool at the counter, drank coffee and talked to every soul in the place but me. I once picked a fight with him over the height of my ice cream cone versus his just to get him to look my way. I was THREE YEARS OLD. It was all I had.

Now, I am probably worse than three. Yesterday, any time someone walked by our table, I shouted, “DO NOT TALK TO HER, DAD!!!!!!” at the top of my voice (because he can’t hear anything). “DAD, PLEASE DON’T TELL OUR WAITRESS JOKES ABOUT NUTS!!!!!” “THE LADY DOESN’T WANT TO KNOW ALL THE REASONS WHY YOU NEED CAFFEINE-FREE, DAD!!!!!!” “NO, THEY HAVE NOTHING IN GUCCI THAT WILL FIT YOU, AND DO NOT GO IN THERE AND TALK TO THE SKINNY, PRETTY SALES CLERK ABOUT HOW YOU JUST PAID $10 FOR A SHOE SHINE!!!!!!”

Yes, I am hoarse after spending any amount of time with my father. I guess it blends well with the horror that I will be just like him someday. Telling stories to strangers…………………….



Um. Can anyone please help me STOP acting like my Dad?

Too Much is Just Enough: Strangers for my Dad



Sexy and Seventeen

Well, I wasn’t sexy when I was seventeen, or at any other time in my life. But, I did go on my Senior Trip when I was seventeen. We went to Washington DC, that bastion of politics, learning and museums that was supposed to teach us seniors a thing or two about America.

I didn’t appreciate much about that trip, other than a hideous 1987 sweatshirt I bought from a street vendor and the amount of time I got to spend flirting with the cute boys in my class. It was February of 1987, and it snowed on our arrival. My first view of DC (or any big city, for that matter) was of it covered with a wash of white. I giggled and preened and hair sprayed my way through the whole experience.

Yesterday, I relived a portion of that trip. I decided to revisit the Jefferson Memorial, a site I had not entered since that freezing day in 1987 when our group of gaggling twelfth graders decended upon the peace of it. The sky was a bottomless brand of blue, the kind of lovely that happens when summer humidity abates for a few hours. Set against the backdrop of that sky, the white domed building jumped out of the landscape as I walked around the wind-whipped Tidal Basin.

I don’t remember how we approached the Monument my senior year. Maybe we came on a bus, or maybe we walked. I know we were obnoxious, however it happened.

It was different yesterday. I’d already walked past the spot at the White House where I had my photo taken with one of my male classmates and stopped at the Washington Monument, where we all stood in a long line to ride to the top. By the time I approached the Jefferson Memorial on foot, I was sweaty and tired and thirsty, and I knew I had at least four miles to walk on the return. In short, I regretted going out there in the first place.

Until I saw it again up close, a palatial Pantheon in our own country. I made my way through the high school groups to stand inside the breezy, shaded dome, and I sat, still and reverent. I watched a girl try to pole dance on one of the columns, and I wondered if I did that the last time I was there. I listened to the group of girls next to me, complaining about how they were ready to go. That was me at seventeen.

They say we shouldn’t repeat things, that the repetition ruins the novelty of the initial experience. In this case, I’m glad I relived a microscopic portion of my life. With adult eyes, I saw the things I missed at seventeen: the exact copy of the Pantheon ceiling in Rome, minus the hole; the way Jefferson stares longingly at the White House in the distance; the salient words of the Constitution engraved upon the walls; the way the stone columns frame various perspectives; the play of shadow and light.

It was so much better than when I was seventeen.

Too Much is Just Enough: Doing Things Over to Get Them Right



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