Day Of The Dog

There was going to be a party. Not just any party. There was going to be a birthday party at my son’s home. It was an hours drive, deep into the suburbs north of the city. There was going to be food, fancy food created by a chef. Everyone was attending. They had been talking about it for weeks. It was a thoroughly planned party. My mother-in-law and my sister-in- law, were coming in from out of town. It was apparently a party that was not to be missed. Some of the family members were discussing gifts, text messaging photos of items they were considering purchasing for the guest of honor. Everyone was bringing a gift. My wife wanted to know what I wanted to take as a gift.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”, I stated.

“No.”, she said. “We have to take to take something.”

“Why.”, I asked her.

“Because that’s what you do for a birthday.”, she advised.

“You know”, I told her, “He doesn’t know its his birthday.”

“It doesn’t matter.”, she replied. “We have to take a gift.”

“The question really is why do we have to go at all.”, I said.

“Because its the right thing to do.”, she said. “Its his birthday.”

“You know”, I said, “you know he’s a dog, right?” Right. Everyone knew he was a dog. But he had always been my wife’s dog.

The party itself was a gala event. The living room was decorated with banners embossed with sentiments suggesting that the dog have a happy day. There were dog cupcakes, and a candle was put in one as my family burst into a rousing rendition of happy birthday for a dog who had long ago left and went to sleep in another room. He was carried out to hear the song and to eat a cupcake, and then returned to another room to go back to sleep.

The gifts were unwrapped without his presence. There was a sweater, a basketball jersey, some assorted chew toys, dog treats, and a certificate for a dog spa day.

“Someone should have got him a girl.”, I said.

“What?”, my wife asked, wondering if she heard me correctly.

“Someone should have got him a bitch.”, I said, “You know, a female dog that jumped out of a cake or something.”

“What the hell is he going to do with a bitch?”, my wife asked me. “He’s been fixed.”

“So have I.”, I reminded her. “But I’ve still got a bitch.” She smiled ever so slightly, not wanting me to know that she found it funny.

“Well”, she said, “The difference is you’ve still got your balls.”

“Really?”, I queried. “I’m pretty sure that you’ve had them for the last 25 years or so.” I went back to sit in the lounge chair only to find the birthday dog and his little sister laying down across it.

The chit chat emanating from this group was loud and diverse, There were several different conversations occurring at the same time, each one slightly louder than the other, in order that each participant in each conversation could hear and be heard. There was talk of synthetic proteins to aid in muscle building, shoulder surgery, and healthy eating. There was one conversation which raised the concern of the poor and the homeless. I was bored, and I wanted to leave. No one was speaking about music, or drugs, although my mother in law did raise the issue of now taking statins. There were no philosophical debates, and no questions regarding intelligent life in the universe. What the hell had happened to my family? The lot of them were turning into protein drinking, vegan gym rats. I had never felt so alone in my life. It was clear to me, at that moment that I must be the alien. As for intelligent life in the universe, I was certain that it wasn’t in that room on that day.

I suppose it was a good party, I mean its always great to see all of the kids and their partners together. It was nice to see the dogs too, although in all of the years I have known my mother-in-law and sister-in-law, neither of them has ever come into town for one of my birthdays, and there have been many significant ones. I have never received a gift from them either, although my wife informed me that I already had the greatest gift they could have given to anyone, and that of course, was her. I remind her that the return policy had always been very one sided, with no opportunity for a refund or at least an exchange. She let me know that she is irreplaceable, and at best, I would wind up with a a very inferior replacement. And as for the refund, well, apparently there just wasn’t enough money to cover her value. Sadly, she was right.

“This better not become an annual event.”, I told her on the long drive home. “I’m not doing this again.”

“We’ll see.”, she said. “Since we’re in the area, do you feel like grabbing a veal sandwich from Nino D’Aversa?”

“Are you buying?”, I asked.

“Do you have any money on you?”, she questioned.

“Not a dime.”, I answered. “You don’t let me have any.”

“Well.”, she told me, “That’s because you keep losing it.”

“So you’re buying then?”, I  again.

“I always do.”, she replied. “And this is why I can never be returned.”

“Ya.”, I said. “Because you have all of my money.”

“Its our money.”, she advised me. “And yes I do.”






Father’s Day

It was wonderful when they were young. All of those little people running around the house, jumping on my bed to wake me up, screaming “happy father’s day, daddy”. The cards they made for me at school, big red hearts glued to the front, with illegible hand writing telling me how much they loved me. Tie dyed tee shirts that they had made after taking my white tee shirts from my dresser drawer, which I wore proudly. As I, and the kids aged, the celebration took on a very different feel. This year was no different.

“The kids want to know what you want for father’s day.”, my wife informed me.

“Nothing.”, I answered.

“They’re going to get you something.”, she said, “so we may as well tell them what you want.” I thought long and hard.

“I would like to be left alone.”, I replied.

“What does that mean?”, my wife asked.

“I just want to drink a few beer and watch the ball game.”, I told her.

“Well that’s not going to happen.”, she advised me. “They’re all coming down for brunch.”

“When is brunch?”, I asked her.

“They will be here about 11.”, I was told.

“And when are they leaving?”. I inquired.

“I don’t know.”, she stated. “Does it matter?”

“Well”, I pointed out, ” they usually don’t leave until the evening. That’s not brunch. I don’t mind that they’re hear for brunch, but if they come at 11, why can’t they leave by 1 0r 2. Why do they have to stay until 8 or 9? It stops being brunch if they’re here for another meal.”

‘They want to spend time with you.”, she added.

“Then they could take me to the ball game.”, I responded.

“No one wants to go to the game.”, I was told.

“I do.”, I said.

“They’re coming here for brunch. They want to know what you want for father’s day.”, she continued.

“Okay.”, I answered. “I want them to leave by 1 or 2.”

“You’re being difficult.”, she stated in that tone that is designed to let me know that she is not pleased with me. I didn’t think I was being difficult. If it was father’s day, what couldn’t I get what I wanted? I was pretty certain that I was being reasonable and rational.

When I woke on father’s day, there was no jumping on my bed, no hand mare cards, or tie dyed tee shirts. There were no little voices screaming out “happy father’s day, daddy.”

“Please behave.”, my wife pleaded, as she readied the house for the coming arrival of the prodigal children.

“I always do my best.”, I informed her. “I can’t do more than that.”

“Try.”, she advised me.

They started arriving at 10:30, holding bags hiding gifts, and store bought cards. My wife busied herself in the kitchen, getting out the food to feed the ravenous hoard that would soon invade my dining room. I certainly appreciated the thoughtfulness of the gifts each one brought, but to be honest, I really had no use for any of them. Oh, the rhubarb-watermelon flavored licorice was wonderful, but I really didn’t need another mug, or shirt. My daughter-in-law, the newest member of our family, brought beer. She has now earned a special place in my heart!

We ate, my now adult kids made s’mores, while I drank beer and watched the ball game. We talked about upcoming birthdays, vacation plans, and issues that had arisen in their living situations. We did not talk about Justin Smoak’s home run, or Estrada’s crappy 3rd inning. As diner time approached, the discussion turned to what we should eat.

“What would you like, daddy?”, someone asked. I hate that question. For the past 30 years or so it hasn’t mattered what I wanted, they always seemed to think they knew what I wanted more than I did.

“It doesn’t matter.”, I said, resigning myself to the inevitable outcome.

“Should we order in?”, my wife asked.

“Only if you have money to pay for it.”, I answered.

“What should we order?”, she added. I wasn’t sure what this had to do with me. Why did I always have to be involved in discussions in which they would really never let me have what I wanted. Not even on father’s day!

“Thai food.”, I replied.

“No one eats Thai food here except you.”, one of my daughters blurted out. “We’re not getting Thai food.” And there it went. I was certain that they were going to settle on one of two things: Pizza, or Swiss Chalet.

“Let’s just get pizza.”, one of my sons said. “Its the easiest.”  And with that I heard Don Pardo speaking in my head. “Well, sir, for that correct answer, you have just won an all expense paid trip to anywhere away from your family for the remainder of the day.”

But we weren’t finished, no, we were far from done. “What do you want on the pizza.”, my wife asked.

“I’m good.”, I replied. “I’m not really hungry. I think I’m going to have go lay down soon. I think I may have had a few too many beers.”

“Do you want your surprise first?”, she asked. While I had hoped that it was going to be incredibly hot sex, I knew that it wasn’t going to happen, especially not with the kids around. “Its your favorite.”. she added, “Key Lime tart.” She was right, it was my favorite. I ate the tart, and was satisfied that it had been an okay father’s day. It was good to see all of the kids together, it generally doesn’t happen often enough. And to see them laughing, and getting along with each other, well, it made me realize that it isn’t really all that bad.

I went to lay down, after saying goodbye, and thanking them for the cards and wonderful gifts. My wife came into the bedroom shortly after to see if I was alright. “I’m fine.”, I told her.

“It was nice of the kids to come down. It was good to see them so happy.”, she told me, “You’re a good father.”

“Thank you.”, I answered. “I try my best.”

“I hope you had a good father’s day.”, she said. “And I hope that we can have everyone over again next year.”

“Okay.”, I answer. “But next year, I am giving each of them a white tee shirt and I want them to tie dye it for me.” She stood up and smiled.

“They will.”, she said. “They will.”