Bubbie Has A Boyfriend

 

There was quite a furor in my house. The kids were upset, my wife was uncharacteristically quiet, and once again I found myself in the role of therapist for this band of brooding, yet quite lovable barbarians. As innocent as it appeared to me, there was much anxiety over the news that my 80 year old mother-in-law had a boyfriend.

“Who is this man?”, one of my daughters asked.

“What does Bubbie need a boyfriend for?”, another one shouted out.

“We need to check this guy out.”, a son chimed in. “What if he’s after her money or something?” I sat listening to this diatribe, wondering what he hell had happened to what I thought was a reasonably sensible family.

“I don’t know who he is.”, my wife said. “Except that he’s younger than her, and he’s French.”

“He’s a gigolo.”, another son entered the fray.

“Are they, like dating?”, a daughter asked.

“It appears that way.”, my wife responded. “He just moved into her building.”

“Oh my God!”, a daughter quipped. “Are they living together?”

“No.”, my wife said. “He has his own apartment. A few floors above hers.”

“Well, that’s convenient.”, I said. Its probably not even furnished..”

“What is that supposed to mean?”, my wife asked, with arms folded.

“It means they are probably living together.”, a son replied. “He just rented his own apartment to make it look good.”

“They are not living together.”, my wife stated. “And please”, she added as she looked directly at me, “If you’re not going to help, then just say nothing.”

“I just don’t think there’s anything to get so upset about.”, I said. “The woman has been a widow for almost 40 years. She spent all of that time alone. I think its good for her to meet someone and try to be happy.”

“Well, it’s not your mother, is it?”, my wife reminded me. And true enough, it wasn’t.

“We need to meet this guy.”, a son said. “We need to check him out and make sure he’s okay for Bubbie.”

“We should just put him in the trunk of his car and leave him in the parking lot at the Airport.”, someone said.

“This isn’t a Mafia hit.”, I interjected.

“What if they’re having sex?”, a daughter asked.

“They’re not having sex.”, my wife answered.

“How do you know?”, I asked.

“Because they’re not.”, she said. “You’re still not helping.”, she said to me.

“Well”, I offered.”Why don’t we ask your mother and her friend to join us for lunch. We’ll all go. We can meet him, and see what’s going on. Maybe then you can all stop talking about it.” There are times when I have wonderfully brilliant solutions to all of my families troubles, but not one of them will ever let me know. This was one of those times.

“Okay.”, my wife said. “I call my mother and make arrangements for this weekend.”

“I’m going to grill him.”, a daughter said. “No one messes with my Bubbie.”

“We could take him outside and threaten him.”, a son said. “You know, scare the crap out of him.”

“Who are you?”, I asked him. “We’re not the Sopranos!”

“We will all behave.”, my wife said. “It will be a nice getting to know you, and welcome to the family lunch.”

“He’s not in my family.”, a daughter said.

“Does he even speak English?”, a daughter asked.

“He speaks English.”, I assured her. “But like a Frenchman. Just mumble, close your eyes and move your head around a bit when you speak to him. He’ll understand perfectly.”

As the day of the luncheon rolled around, everyone was working on their own agendas. There were those who had plans to batter the man with incessant questioning, while others were planning on intimidating and threatening. My wife wasn’t sure how she would react. She hoped that she would like him, for her mother’s sake, but she already had issue with him. Me, well, it made no difference to me whatsoever. I was pretty far removed from the emotional turbulence that had overwhelmed my family. If he was alright, then I was alright. All of the kids and their significant others met at the restaurant about 20 minutes before we arranged for them to come. We were an intimidating site for a newcomer, all 10 of us, seated at the table, some with a scornful demeanor, and visible uneasiness. “Please make sure your children behave.”, my wife whispered to me.

“Why are they suddenly mine?”, I asked.

“Because you taught them to be rude and disrespectful.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I said to my kids. “You really need to tone it down, and behave yourselves. Be nice. Be polite. We’re hear for your grandmother. Let’s try to make her happy.”

When they arrived, we all sat there talking, introducing ourselves, and trying to get to know the Frenchman. I’m sure he knew the scrutiny he was under. I’m sure my mother-in-law warned him about our family. But he was alright. He held his own. One of my daughters kept giving him the ‘stink eye’, and I had to glare at her to get her to stop. It turned out that the Frenchman had a crap load of money, owned several properties across Canada, including a beach house in Nova Scotia, and a Condo in Vancouver. I could see my daughter’s eyes light up,  with dollar signs floating around her face. My mother-in-law seemed happy, the happiest I had seen her in many, many years. My wife, struggling a little to let go of the ghost of her father, also saw her mother’s happiness. We finished lunch, and said our goodbyes, as they had a long drive back to Windsor. As the rest of us walked towards our cars, there was much chatter about the Frenchman.

“He seems okay.”, a son said.

“I still don’t like him.”, a daughter said.

“Do you think I could get him to pay off my student loan?”, another daughter asked.

“I hate the French.”, someone stated.

In the car, heading home, my wife asked me what I thought of him. “I don’t know.”, I told her. “He seems nice enough, and your mother is very happy.”

“I don’t want her to get hurt.”, she said.

“Ah, honey.”, I said. “They’re 80 years old. He can’t get her money because we have signing authority. What’s left for him to take? Her virtue? That ship sailed a long, long time ago. Let her have fun. We will take care of her, but she needs to live.”

“I know.”, she said. “I just worry that he’ll leave or something, and then she’ll have nothing.”

“She’ll have us.”, I reminded her.

“Thank you for looking out for my mother.”, she told me.

“And besides”, I stated. “If he hurts her, we can always have him stuffed into the trunk of a car parked at the airport. Your gangster son would gladly do the job.”

“Oh, so now he’s my son.”, she exclaimed.

“Yes.”, I explained. “The crazy shit they get from you. The kids and I refer to it as ‘getting Moroccan’.”

“Well”, she said, “We have some time without any kids. Interested in some crazy Moroccan sex?”

“It so happens that’s my favorite kind.”, I told her. Man, I love this woman..

 

 

 

 

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Sex, And Drugs, And Rock ‘N’ Roll

 

“Did you do a lot of drugs when you were younger, daddy?”, one of my daughters asked me.

“Why would you ask me that?”, I responded.

“Well, mommy said that back in your old hippie days, you were on drugs most of the time.”, she informed me.

“Really?”, I inquired. “And why would you need to know about that?”

“We have to do a project in school.”, she answered. “I have to gather information about what my parents were like when they were younger, and present it to the class.”

“I don’t think they’re looking for that kind of information.”, I advised. “I think they want to know where we lived, how many brothers and sisters we have, where we went to school. That sort of stuff.”

“No, Mrs. Kennedy said to gather as much information about your parents as you can.”, she told me. I was pretty sure my wife was not aware of the purpose of my daughter’s thirst for knowledge about my past, but now I had to figure out how to stop the flow of that particular information.

“Why did you tell Melinda about shit I did when we were kids?” I asked. “What were you thinking?”

“Relax.”, she said. “Its no big deal. She doesn’t even know what I was talking about.”

“Oh, she does.”, I quipped. “And interestingly enough, its for a class project. She is going to present her findings to the class.”

“You’re kidding.”, my wife barked.

“No.”, I continued. “That’s what she told me.”

“Well.”, she said, as she chuckled. “Its not that bad, is it?”

“Well, I hope you can keep laughing about it. It gets worse.”, I responded. “I told her that you were a stripper.”

“You’re kidding?”, she snapped.

“In my defense, it was before I knew it was for a school project.”, I replied. “And, if its any consolation, I told her you were very, very good.”

“What the hell are we supposed to do about this, now?”, she asked.

“Well, I could get high, we could put some music on, and you could start taking your clothes off.”, I suggested.

“Really?”, she asked. “That’s your solution? Sex and drugs can’t fix everything!”

“And rock and roll.”, I corrected her. “Sex and drugs and rock and roll. And yes, I’m pretty sure it can make everything better.”

“Not this.”, she said.

“Well”, I stated, “I don’t think it could make it worse.”

“Be serious.”, she pleased. “We need to figure out how to stop her from announcing those things at school.”

“Its really not that bad.”, I said trying to ease her anxiety.

“Maybe not for you.”, she responded. “You were only a druggie. Big deal. Everyone was doing all kinds of shit back then. But I’m going to have to face our neighbors and the parents of every kid in her class, with everyone thinking I was a cheap stripper.”

“First of all,”, I explained. “They’re now referred to as exotic dancers, which sounds pretty sweet, and secondly, I never said you were cheap.”

“I’m glad you find this funny.”, she said, as her Spanish-Moroccan eyes started burning holes in my cranium.

“I’ll take care of it.”, I told her.  I found my daughter sitting at the kitchen table working on her school project.

“Listen”, I said. “I made that stuff up about mommy. I was just angry that she told you about me using drugs. She never was a stripper. You would be lying if you put that in your project.”

“I wouldn’t put that in my project.”, she told me. “It would hurt mommy’s feelings.”

“I see.”, I said. “But your okay telling everyone that I used all kinds of drugs when I was younger?”

“Ya.”, she said. “You don’t get upset like mommy. Her feelings get hurt very easy.”

“Really?”, I replied.

“Don’t you know that?”, she asked me in response.

“I guess that I never really thought about it.”, I said.

“Well, you should.”, she advised me. I thanked her for listening, and headed off to the family room.

“I think I’ve just been scolded by your daughter.”, I informed my wife.

“Well, you deserved it.”, she said.

“No doubt.”, I replied. “When did she get so smart?”

” You know, she’s my daughter too.”, she told me.

“I hear you.”, I stated. “I’m going to go to bed.”

“I’ll join you.”, she said as she turned off the television. “Maybe, if you’re lucky, we’ll see just how good of a stripper I really am.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Terror On The Information Super Highway

 

It started in the middle of the night, coming out of nowhere, so there was no time to prepare. And now, 2 days after it began, there was no end in sight. It was relentless, gnawing at us like a rabid coyote. The anxiety was thick enough to breathe, and the silence was deafening. And then, out of the stillness, a small voice asked “When is it going to stop, daddy?”

“I don’t know, honey.”, I answered helplessly. “I just don’t know.”

“What are we going to do now?”, my wife asked, seemingly as frightened as my daughter was.

“I don’t know.”, I answered, racking my brain for some way out of this nightmare. “The only thing I am sure about is that I can’t play another freakin’ board game!”

“We have to do something.”, she stated. “Look at us. We’re like animals, here!”

“Its okay.”, I assured her. “It will all be okay.”

“It will never be okay, again.”, she sighed.

Deep down I knew that she was right. It never would be okay, again. It never could be.

“Why don’t we take the kids and go to your mother’s?”, I suggested.

“Can we?”, she asked.

“Why not?”, I said.  My wife paused for a moment, and then looked at me with those black, Moroccan eyes.

“So, why didn’t you think of this days ago?”, she demanded to know.

“I’m not particularly fond of your mother.”, I answered.

“You are going to come with, right?”, she asked.

“She doesn’t have the room for all of us.” I told her. “I’ll be okay here.”

“I don’t think so.”, she said. “You’re not sending me with all of the kids while you stay here and do nothing.”

“I’m not going.”, I insisted.

“Well then, neither am I.”, she stated.

“Well,”, I told her, “the only thing left to do is plug the modem back in, and surrender.”

“What do you mean?”, she asked.

“This is harder on us than it is on them, I think.”, I suggested. “I hate to give in, but there’s no other way to get out of this nightmare.”

“Are you sure?”, she asked.

“Yes?”, I said with some reluctance. “I’m sure.” We called the kids into the kitchen and sat them down at the table. “Your mother has something to tell you.”, I informed them. She sat there as stoic as a statue, and I couldn’t help but wonder when he pigeons would come to land on her. She folded her arms across her chest, and sat back in her chair.

“Your father and I have been quite upset by the way you have all been abusing our good nature. We pay for the internet, and we expect you to respect our rules about using it. We would like to believe that you have learned a lesson here.”  She paused, and leaned forward, looking at all of them one by one, as they sat around the circular table. Boy, she was good!

“So, today,”, she continued, “we are willing to bring the internet back, but with conditions.”

“What conditions?”, one of the kids asked. Good question, I thought as I wanted to know what these conditions were myself.

“No streaming, no game playing, no social media, until all of your homework is done. Agreed?”

There was, what sounded like a somewhat reserved heavenly chorus response of “Yes”.

“And”, she added, “all of your devices are put away by 10 o’clock, every night. Agreed.”

“Yes.”, came the reluctant chant.

My wife continued to look them in the eye, causing them to look down at the table. “If this happens again”, she continued, “there will be no internet. Ever. Your father and I will change the password, and we will have the exclusive use of it. You will have nothing. If you need it for school work, you can go to the library, or Tim Horton’s, or any where else you want and use their wifi. Are we all  clear?”

“Yes.”, they said.

“In one hour”, she added, it will be working. Now, go and clean your rooms.” Like antelopes running  from a lioness, they ran up the stairs faster than I had ever seen them move before.

“You’re very good.”, I told her.

“You’re just figuring that out now?”. she replied.

“I guess so.”, I told her. “That look worked great on the kids.”

“Not just on the kids.”, she stated.

“What do you mean?”, I asked.

“How do you think I get you to clean out the garage, cut the lawn, or anything else I want you to do?”

“Just so we’re clear”, I answered, “I am not afraid of you.”

“I don’t want you to be afraid of me.”, she replied. “You just have to be unsure about what is going on in my head.”

“Well”, I told her, “I just assumed that it wasn’t much.”

“Pretty funny.”, she said, as she stood up from the table. She walked past me, and almost whispering said, “You might want to sleep with one eye open tonight.”

“I always do.”, I reminded her, as I pulled her towards me, and gave her a hug. “Sometimes I keep them both opened.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

The Rebellion of 2010

 

Moving with my family was one of the most horrifyingly traumatic events in our lives. My wife and I were busy in our search for a home in the city’s downtown core, while my kids were opposed to leaving their lives in suburbia.

We searched and searched for the ideal home, but everything we saw raised at least one significant issue with my wife. It was  too far from a school, or not near enough to a subway station. There were homes that were too close to the main street, or too far from a grocery store.  And  the search seemed to continue for what seemed like an eternity. After intensive investigating, and viewing, we finally found something she could live with. It was just blocks away from a high school, right next door to a grocery store, a few blocks from a subway station, and about a 1/2 hour walk to a hospital. “Well.”, she said, “I suppose its as close to perfect as we’re going to get.”

“What do we tell the kids?”, I asked.

“Leave that with me.”, she said. “It will be a piece of cake.” Now, I don’t eat cake. I never did. I just don’t like it, but I was almost certain this would not be a piece of cake.

We sat down with the 4 remaining kids still living at home, and my wife broke the news. “We’ve found a place. We’re going to be moving downtown. You guys will love it.”

“What the hell?”, one of my daughters shouted.

“I’m not going.”, my son said. “I hate it downtown.”

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”, another daughter chimed in. “I love it here. I’m not going.”, and she burst into tears. They all got up and left the room.

“Well, that went over well.”, I said to my wife. “Perhaps they don’t like cake either.” And, as I have so regularly been subjected to over the years, my wife gave me the Moroccan death glare, the one that implies “I could kill you with just a blink of an eye.”

“You could have helped out a little.”, she said.

“You said to leave it with you.”, I replied. “Remember? It was going to be a piece of cake.”

“What do we do?”, she asked, “Do we stay here?”

“I think we just leave it alone.”, I told her. “They’ll get used to the idea. It’s not like they have a choice.”

Well, things went from bad to worse, and of course, I bore the brunt of the blame. My son had decided that he was moving out. He had a friend who was looking to share an apartment, and my son was moving in with him. One of my daughters was okay with the move, as long as she had her own bedroom, and we took the dogs with. The 2 other girls were emotionally wrought, filled with anxiety, fear, and hatred. They said that they would not move. They informed me that I could not make them move. They threatened to contact Children’s Aid, and have themselves placed in foster care in order to stay in outer suburbia.

“Its all fixed.”, I told my wife. “We lucked out. One is moving in with a friend, and two are going into the care of Children’s Aid. So we have 4 out of 5 kids no longer living with us. And, just to let you know, there was no cake involved. I substituted pie.”

“Nobody is going into Foster Care.”, she bellowed. “They’re coming with us. It doesn’t matter what they say. We are the parents. We decide what’s best for this family.” She often said we, but in reality, she meant that she decided what was best for this family.

The kids continued to be adamant about not moving, singing rousing versions of ‘We Shall Overcome’, and  ‘I Shall Be Released’, that came out as “I hate you”, and “I wish I was never born”. Over the following days, and weeks, they began a campaign to try to force us to change our minds. They employed subversive tactics such as ignoring us when we called them, refusing to do their chores, and refusing to clean up after themselves. They kept their lights and televisions on, and stayed up late in the early morning hours, on their computers. They posted on social media just how unfair and cruel their parents were. They left us notes stating that they would run away, and we would never see them again. I bought them suitcases on wheels, like a good and thoughtful father, so their departures would be easier.

As the moving date neared, their defiance heightened. They flat out refused to pack up their things. They would hold sit ins in their rooms so my wife and I could not pack for them. “It’s really a simple choice.”, I told one of my daughters. “You can leave with your stuff, or without it, but you will be leaving.”

“You can’t make me move.”, she replied.

“That’s true.”, I told her. “I just hope the family moving in doesn’t mind having you here.”

By moving day, my daughters had, I thought, surrendered, given that they had packed what they wanted to take with. Once we arrived at our new home, they amped up their disapproval of downtown living by refusing to eat, staying in their rooms, and giving us the silent treatment. My youngest daughter gave up the battle soon after we moved in.

The older of the 2 dug her heels in, with letters expressing her absolute and total disapproval of our parenting style and decision making process. Apparently, she believed that she had rights, which my wife and I had violated. I reminded my daughter that, since she was over 16 years old, I no longer had to allow her to live with me. I could, if I so desired, toss her sorry ass out on the street. She reminded me that she had rights. “Not in my dictatorship.”, I advised her. “You’re not obligated to stay here. You can pack up, and leave. Sail away to undiscovered lands, and start a new life. But if you choose to stay here, remember, this is not a democracy. I am not taking votes.”

“I want to talk to mommy.”, she said.

“That’s up to her.”, I said. “But I will ask.” I spoke with my wife about my daughter’s requrest.

“What am I supposed to say to her?”, my wife asked.

“I guess you don’t want to try that cake thing again.”, I remarked, as her Moroccan eyes darted back and forth searching for her prey. “Just tell her the truth. She will come around.”

“And what if she doesn’t?”, my wife inquired.

“Well”, I responded, “she really has no choice. Where is she going to go?”

The negotiations were long and arduous. Hour after hour, day after day of back and forth bargaining had the parties at a standstill. “Why don’t you say anything?”, my wife asked me one night.

“I am using my silence to confuse and befuddle her.”, I said. “I will talk when it is time to deliver the one crushing blow that will bring this to an end once and for all.”

“This isn’t a game.”, she said.

“Ah, my dear wife,”, I advised her, “but it is.”

About 1 week later, my daughter made a fatal mistake, and I could see the end in sight. She had made plans to spend the weekend with a friend in suburbia. She approached my wife and I, asking for money to finance her trip. I took money out of my pocket and placed it on the table in front of her. “How much do you need?”, I asked.

“$20.”, she said.

“Okay.”, I said and I picked up a $20 bill, and held it in my hand. “Let me explain how this is going to work. As long as you need to come to me and ask for money, there are rules that must be followed. I will always provide for my family. It doesn’t require you to like me, I really don’t care if you do or not. It does however require you to respect me and your mother. Nothing is free. This money is not just money, it is time taken from my life that I can never get back. It is mine. I have the option of sharing it with you, or not. I am under no obligation to provide with anything other than food, shelter and clothing. I don’t even have to pay for your cell phone. In fact, if this continues, I will cancel it. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”, she said.

“So”, I asked, “What do you want to do, because today we are resolving this. The revolution is over, and we now need to negotiate peace”

“Can I use the money you were going to give me to go to see my friends to paint my room instead?”, she asked.

“When do you want to paint it?”, I responded.

“This weekend.”, she told me. “I don’t think I want to see Elana right now, anyway.”

“Go and get dressed, and we’ll go get paint and the brushes.”, I said.

“I’m sorry.”, she said as she walked to her room to change.

“Me too.”, I told her.

“Well”, my wife said, “that turned out okay.”

“Okay?”, I questioned. “That was a superbly executed act of patience, power and control.  I told you not to worry.”

“I am impressed.”, she added.

“Thank you.”, I replied. “And notice that there was no need for any cake.”

My daughter remained with us for another 5 years, before moving in with her boyfriend, who resides in an outer suburban community. She calls her mother everyday, and comes by and visits at least once a month, whether we want her to or not. She learnt her lesson, and I was proud as hell of her for at least attempting to overthrow the powers that be. None of it really matters to me anymore though, as her boyfriend, who we care for very much, has inherited the little guerrilla inside of her, laying dormant, but waiting for the opportunity to jump out and usurp power and control before he even notices that it is gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Comes To The Suburbs…

When it was just my wife, the 2 boys and myself, we decided to get our first family dog. We went to The Humane Society, and found a puppy. It was a Staffordshire Terrier-Hound Of Hell mix. We took it home, proud that we had rescued a dog from certain doom. We named him Rocky, but as he was the third dog that I had owned named Rocky, he was affectionately referred to as Rocky lll. We had the dog house broken very quickly, and it had become a member of the family.

One evening, we all went out, leaving the dog alone. We were gone 2-3 hours, and returned to find our home torn to pieces. Window coverings had been bitten off and chewed up, sections of laminate flooring had been lifted in the kitchen, and the bag of dog food had been spilled all across the kitchen floor.

“What happened here?”, my wife asked.

“Well”, I said, “either our house was broken into by an interior decorator who hated our decor, or this dog is possessed!”

“You think that little dog did all of this?”, she asked, as the dog gagged, and threw up pieces of forest green Venetian blinds all over the floor.

“Um, yes, I do.”, I replied.

My father, who had been training dogs for most of his life suggested we purchase a cage, and when we go out, lock the dog in the cage. I went to the pet & pet supply store at the local mall, and purchased the cage. We trained the dog to spend time in it when we were home, and he was fine. He would simply lay down, and go to sleep.

Several days later, we went out again. I secured the dog in the cage, and left him with a few toys, and a bowl of water. Two hours later, after a Tex-Mex extravaganza at Lonestar, we returned to find the dog out of the cage, with the bowl of water turned upside down on the floor. There was a trail of dog food across the kitchen and into the living room. There were chunks of wood missing from the frame of the door on the main floor bathroom, and deep scratches on the back door, leading to the driveway.

“Oh, my God.”, my wife said, putting her hands over her mouth.

“This is crazy.”, I said, looking at the dog in disbelief. I examine the cage and it seemed secure enough, but somehow this dog had figured out how to escape. The following day, I ventured out to the pet supply company to return the cage that obviously didn’t work for my dog. I explained the circumstances of my returning the cage, and it was suggested that I try a breeder’s cage which, I was told, was escape proof.  I took the new cage home, and introduced it to the dog.

“Do you think this one will work?”, my wife asked.

“Not even Houdini could get out of this cage.”, I informed her. “If it happens again, he’s gone!”, I added.

For several days we watched the dog in the cage. He was content, and not once did he try to break out. We would go out, and walk to the back of the house, peering in through the living room window. The dog seemed to know we were there, turning around and looking back at us. “How does he know we’re here?”, my wife asked.

“I don’t know.”, I told her. “But this is not a normal dog!”

Believing that the cage was secure, we again went out, leaving the dog in his cage, with toys and water. As we returned home, we all sat in silence, deep in our own personal thoughts about the dog.

I parked on the driveway, and we entered the house through the door leading into the kitchen, and so far nothing  seemed amiss. We walked down the hallway, into the living room, and found the door to the cage still locked, and the dog laying on the couch. My wife shrieked.  I went upstairs to the bedroom, and found trails of shredded linen on the floor. In one of the bedrooms, the blinds had been pulled down from their frame, and several planks of the hardwood floor had been ripped up and chewed. When I returned downstairs, my wife was shaking.

“I want him out now!”, she stated, rather sternly. “This is very creepy, and I don’t get a good feeling about this.”

“I’m way ahead of you.”, I said, as I picked up the dog and walked towards the door. “One of us will be coming back, I hope.”, I responded.

“Well,”, she said, “I’m not sure which one is a bigger pain in the ass.”

I dropped the dog off at The Humane Society, and returned home. As we laid awake in bed, my wife kept hearing the sound of a dog whimpering, and growling. “Did you hear that?”, she asked.

“I didn’t hear anything.”, I told her.

“What if its the the house that’s possessed”, she asked, “and not the dog?”

“Well”, I said, “if that’s the case, I won’t be the one coming back.”

 

 

Sons & Mothers

 

Not only are my kids moving out, but those who are on their own, are now considering moving away. I waited for years to get them the hell out of my house, but I am having mixed feelings about their relocating to different cities.

My wife informed me that my eldest son and his new wife are moving to Hamilton, on June 1. While it is not that far away, a mere 45 minutes down the QEW, I have reservations about this decision.

“Are you kidding me?”, I asked her.

“No.”, she answered. “They’re going to Hamilton. Houses are much cheaper there.”

“Well of course they are”, I advised. “Its freakin’ Hamilton.” This was very disturbing to me. “Hamilton?”, I asked again, hoping that I had misunderstood. Just hearing myself say it, sent shivers down my spine.

I called my son. “What the hell are you doing moving to Hamilton?”, I demanded an explanation.

“Ya.”, he said, “We just can’t afford to live here anymore. Its killing us. We have to find somewhere that’s more affordable.”

“There’s nothing in Hamilton.”, I inform him.

“I have friends there.”, he said. “There’s a bunch of stuff to do, if you live downtown. So we’re going to see some places this weekend that are right downtown. Near the clubs, and stuff.”

“And don’t forget the drug dealers, crack addicts, prostitutes, homeless, and runaways”, I told him.

“We’ll be alright.”, he told me.

“Hamilton?”, I questioned again. “Its like Canada’s version Buffalo & Pittsburgh, only worse!”

And now, my other son is planning on moving to Belleville. That’s right, Belleville, Ontario. population 50,000. Situated in the beautiful middle of nowhere, halfway between Where The Hell Is That?, & Can You Even Get There By Car?. “Houses are really cheap in Belleville.”, he advises me.

“I’m sure.”, I agree. “They’re even cheaper in Iroquois Falls, but I wouldn’t recommend that you live there either.”

He informs me that his live in girlfriend is having a difficult time securing a position as a teacher, and has applied to The Hastings & Prince Edward District School Board. I ask him where he plans on working, and he begins his ADHD laden dissertation.

“Well”, he said, “I could find work cooking in a golf club, but I don’t want to turn 50 years old and still be on my feet all day, cooking. I’m going to get a job at a gym, and take a training course to become a personal trainer. The course is short, so I can start working on building up a clientele right away.”

“How many gyms are there in a town of 50,000 people?”, I ask.

“I don’t know.”, he tells me.

“How many personal trainers are there in Belleville?”, I continue to probe.

“I don’t know.”, he responds.

“Well”, I said, “Sounds like you’ve thought this through.”

“I don’t know why I even tell you things.”, he states.

“Because I’m the only one who tells you what you need to hear. There’s no reason for you to move to Belleville to buy a house. You don’t need a house. And you certainly don’t need to follow Cruella Deville around the province while she looks for a job. Let her go to Belleville. Tell her to send you a postcard. Go visit on weekends. I don’t give a shit. But I think its time you took your balls back from her, and made a decision that works for you.”

My wife had been standing in the doorway, listening in, as usual, to my conversation with the boy. “I think that you’re being a little hard on him.”, she said as she walked into the room.

“You told me to talk to him.”, I reminded her.

“Yes, I did.”, she replied, “but I didn’t want you to yell at him.”

“I wasn’t yelling.”, I corrected her.

“I heard you.”, she said as she rubbed the boys back.

“You realize that he’s 32 years old, right?”, I asked.

“Yes.”, she replied. “What does that have to do with anything? What do you want to do?”, she asks him.

“Go to Belleville.”, he tells her.

“Listen to your mother.”, she begins. “That girl doesn’t know what’s best for you. If you move to Belleville you’ll be too far away. We’ll never see you.You need to stay here. If you need help, we can help you out.”

“Do you understand what your mother is telling you?”, I asked the boy.

“Ya.”, he said, somewhat dejectedly.

“Well.”, I tell him. “My advice is to go and pack. I’ll drive you to Belleville myself.”

Later that evening, when we were alone, my wife reminded me that I have 3 daughters who, one day, may decide to move away.

“Its okay.”, I tell her. “I may finally have a chance to use a bathroom around here.”

“You an joke about it all you want,’, she stated, “but it will drive you crazy.”

“That’s okay.”, I said, “I’ve had an enormous amount of practice living with you. I’m pretty sure I’ll get through it.”

“Keep it up”, she advised me, “and you might not make it through the night.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lock, Stock & Over The Falls Without A Barrel

 

Niagara Falls has always held a special place in my family’s collective heart. Just over an hour drive away, it had always been the go to destination for family outings, and weekend getaways.

The other night, all of my kids and their significant others were over for dinner. As the conversation turned to our family trips to Niagara Falls, the day trips and the weekends, my wife asked if I remembered the first time that I took her there. There are many things that my aging memory has lost somewhere in that time and space that seems to swallow up my keys and eye glasses, but that first weekend in The Falls, is forever tattooed in my brain, and on my right forearm.

We were still dating then, in that place between let’s live together and what the hell is going on with you? We went for a weekend, and now my wife was questioning my ability to remember that trip.

“Well”, I said, “Let’s just go back a lifetime or two. Pay attention boys and girls, this will both shock and amaze you.”

“Its not going to be about sex again, is it?”, one of them asked.

“No.”, I said, “Its been so long, I don’t remember any of that stuff.”

“You’re such an ass.”, my wife said, as she hit me in the arm.

I began my tale of the most expensive weekend in Niagara Falls history. “We left on Friday afternoon and, before heading out on a mere one hour drive, we stopped and had a late lunch, as your mother was hungry. Back on the road, after her cheeseburger and fries, I took her to Niagara-On-The-Lake. We parked and walked down the main street, filled with artisan boutiques and shops. Your mother had ice cream. We dove on to The Falls, and checked into our Hotel, a quaint little establishment complete with a heart shaped Jacuzzi, and water bed, nestled between a Wedding Chapel, and a liquor store. To this day, I am still not sure if the trip to the liquor store is to be made before or after the stop at the Wedding Chapel.

After settling in, we headed out to wander around the falls. As we walked along Ferry Street, she spotted a Taqueria, and decided that she was in the mood for a snack. Two tacos and a white wine later, we were off to see The Falls. We walked along the pedestrian pathway that edged the gorge, and marveled at the international tourists  who ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaahed’ at the wonder of it all. By now, it was rapidly approaching feeding time, and when she spotted the sign in front of The Love Boat advertising Prime Rib, our dinner plans were secured. Your mother had the prime rib, complete with a baked potato, and some green vegetable thing. I had mussels in garlic and wine sauce. We left the restaurant, satiated, and headed back to the room. As we neared our hotel, your mother spotted a 7-11, and determining that we should have emergency rations in the event of a sudden global shortage of prefabricated junk food, stopped to purchase a bag of potato chips, a bottle of ginger ale, several chocolate bars, and a pack of beef jerky.”

“And you had to pay for all of that?”, one of my daughters asked.

“Oh,”, I said. “In her defense, she always offered to pay. I wouldn’t let her. I figured that she was bound to make herself sick long before I ran out of money.I was however, wrong. I had to make several trips to the ATM just to keep her fed. I mean, she only weighed 100 pounds. How much food could she eat?

Anyway, we spent the night in the room where she finished off the chocolate bars, half a bag of potato chips, some ginger ale, and most of the beef jerky. I was starting to feel sick just watching her eat.”

“You should have dumped her, right there.”, one of them blurted out.

“I thought about.”, I said, “but she was so damn cute. The next morning, we went to Perkins for breakfast. Your mother had an order of pancakes, an order of bacon, and order of sausages, toast and coffee. I kept asking myself where all of this food was going, and hoped that it wasn’t some sort of gastrointestinal parasite. We spent the morning horseback riding along a secluded spot on the shores of Lake Erie. On our way back to Niagara Falls, we stopped at a farmer’s roadside pie stand, and purchased a fresh, home made apple pie, although I have no idea how it was made fresh in the back of his pick up truck. On the way back to the hotel, we had to stop at the 7-11 because, as it was explained to me in the car, no one should have to eat apple pie without ice cream!

Lunch was McDonald’s, and there was fudge from a dessert shop that was being saved for later. After visiting several tourist attractions, and The Harley-Davidson store, I took her across the border to one of the best Italian Restaurants known to man, Como’s in Niagara Falls, New York. We both had veal parmigiana, served with pasta, salad, and a basket of bread big enough to feed a small orchestra. After dinner, there was fudge at the hotel.

Sunday came, and it began with breakfast at a local greasy spoon, after which we checked out of the hotel, and headed back to Niagara-On-The-Lake, to wander through Fort George. We left Niagara, and headed back to the big city. We spent the afternoon at my place, and went out to Swiss Chalet for lunch. It was time to call it a weekend, and I was taking her home, when we passed The Towne & Country Buffet.”

“I think you’re making a lot of this up.”, my wife said.

“Really?’, I asked. “You don’t remember going back 3 times for the prime rib? You also had apple cobbler with chocolate ice cream for desert. Remember now?”

“No.”, she said. “I do not!”

“Well, that’s pretty much how it was, give or take a few meals and snacks. After dropping you off, I went straight to the hospital to donate a kidney. I needed the money for the rent, and a car payment or two.”

“That’s a lie.”, she exclaimed.

“Yes”, I said, “that’s a lie.

“I can’t believe you went out with her again.”, one of them stated. I looked at my wife, and saw in her eyes what I had seen so many years ago.

“She’s was worth it.”, I told them. “Still is. But now you know why I can’t afford to retire. I’m still paying off a restaurant tab from 1995.”

 

 

 

The Sun Rises Over There

 

I have recently confirmed what I have suspected for years. My family is directionaly impaired. There is now, no doubt. Not one of them knows east from west.

“How do I get to the H & M clearance store?”, my wife asks, as I really don’t want to have to waste a day shopping for a new coat.

“Take the Yonge Subway to Queen St. Take the Queen streetcar going west. Get off at Spadina. Walk north about 2 or 3 blocks, and its on the east side of the street.”, I tell her.

‘S0, when I get out of the subway, which way do I go on the streetcar?”. she continues.

“West.”, I repeat. “You go west.”

“Which way is west? Is it my right or left”, she inquires, near panic.

“It depends which way you are facing.”, I answer.

“I don’t understand.”, she moans.

“Okay.”, I explain, I’ll take you.”

We have been dancing to this tune for many, many years, and I am still being asked the same questions.

“The lake is south.”, I tell them all. “If you know where the lake is, the rest is easy. If you’re looking at the lake, your left hand is east, your right hand is west, and behind you is north. The zoo is east, and Kensington Market is west.” Simple? Right. Not to my family.

“Which way is the lake?”, they ask.

My eldest daughter found her way to The Confernece Centre, at Queen and Bay, a mere 30 minute walk from our house, to attend a symposium on Mental Health. Sometime late evening, she called me to tell me that she was lost. She was at Queen & Ossington. “How did you get way over there?”, I asked.

“When I left the building”, she said, “I turned left, and kept going until I realized that nothing looked familiar.”

“You were supposed to go east, not west.”, I told her. “You were supposed to turn right.” I got dressed and drove over to pick her up. I have asked them about this inability to find where they are going, and the consensus is that they all use landmarks to identify which way they should go. The trouble is, they have no idea which way to go to locate the landmarks!

I have purchased compasses, but this  proved unhelpful as well. I have provided each of them with maps I have drawn indicating the route there in green, and the route back in red. They still get confused, and call me to ask for directions. I have suggested using the GPS on their phones, but my frugal wife will not spend the money for the service. It is obvious that my kids inherit this directional impairment from their mother, who I am certain received it from her mother. It is astounding to me that no one can seem to find their way to where they have to go and then get back home again. I have recommended a trail of bread crumbs. They are concerned that the birds will eat them, and they will not be able to follow them back.

“What is the easiest way to get to the clinic?”, my wife asks.

“Take a cab.”, I tell her.

“There’s no way I’m spending that kind of money on a cab.”, she says. “I’ll go by transit.”

“Okay.”, I say. “Go down to Queen, and take the 501 streetcar westbound.”

“Westbound?”, she asks.

“Westbound.”, I repeat. “It will be the one that stops on the north side of Queen. The front of the car should read Neville Park or Roncesvalles. Get on it. Get off at Landsdowne. Its right there.”

“Landsdowne?”, she asks.

“Are you okay with that?”, I inquire.

“Well, it seems complicated.”, she answers. “I don’t know any of those places.”

“Never mind.”, I tell her. “I will drive you.”

“Really?”, she exclaims.

“Ya. It will probably take less time than to have to go out on a search and rescue mission after you don’t come back.”

And I often do lay awake at night wondering if they will all make it back. My family goes out into the great unknown like a rolling stone.And while I am certain that they will gather no moss, I have reservations about their ability to find their way home.It’s enough to drive a directionaly competent person south. On the upside of all of this, I am pretty certain that I could leave, give them directions to where I’ll be, and they would never be able to find me.I am seriously contemplating using this technique as I plan my next vacation.

 

 

The Rites Of Spring

 

Ah, spring. The time of year when trees blossom, and flowers bloom. The days when the air smells like a barnyard, and the dogs go missing, to be found days later sitting on the front porch, smoking cigarettes. My family has always been excited by the announcement that spring is upon us. There is much reflection on what is to expect according to the revelation of Wiarton Willie, the rodent weather wizard. There is an equal amount of joie de vivre, when day light savings time is initiated, and the days get longer. No one in my house dares to complain about the loss of 1 hour of sleep.The highlight of this festive time of year, is the much anticipated 1st Robin sighting. What it does to the heart, and soul. How the sight of this bird is so embedded in the family’s collective psyche.

About 2 weeks ago, my daughter squealed with delight, as she came home announcing that she had just seen a robin, perched in a tree outside of our home.

“It seems a little early for a robin.”, my wife said.

“Not necessarily.”, I interjected. “What kind of robin was it?”

“What do you mean, what kind of Robin was it?”, my daughter asked. “The kind with the red stomach.”

“Well”, I asked, “was it a Canadian robin?”

“A Canadian robin?”, my wife repeated, as skeptical as ever.

I informed them both that there were many birds that no longer went south for the winter. Unlike years ago, I informed her, some of the birds stay here, and now, its mostly the people, the senior citizens who migrate south. I went on to explain that these birds, had adapted, and could withstand the harsh Canadian winters. If it was a Canadian robin that was sighted, well, then it doesn’t really count.

“Why do I not want to believe you?”, my daughter asked.

“Because you’re a skeptic.”, I answered, “just like your mother.”

I pointed out that there are geese, and then there are Canada Geese. There are Arizona cardinals, and St. Louis cardinals. There are orioles, and then there are Baltimore Orioles, as well as Baltimore Ravens. Why then is it so hard to believe that there are Canadian robins?

“How do you tell if it is a Canadian robin?”, my wife asked, suspiciously.

“It would be wearing hockey equipment.”, I answered. “But only because its hockey season.”

My daughter stormed off to her room, cursing under her breath as she walked away. “Why do you always have to torment the kids?”, my wife asked.

“I don’t have to.”, I replied, “I choose to. Its like asking why do you have to irritate me? I know you don’t have to, but you like to, right?” My wife tried very hard not to smile. “I know you do.”, I continued. “As bizarre as it is, you like to watch me get irritated.”

“Oh, I do!”, she stated emphatically. “Its so funny to watch you get frustrated, and not know what to say.”

“Oh, I know what to say.”, I told her. “I’m just not stupid enough to say it.”

It was so much easier when my kids were young. They believed everything. None of them ever doubted any of the stories I told them. “You can’t tell them that kind of stuff anymore.”, my wife said. They’re too old for that. Try talking to them about important things.”

I thought about what was important to my kids. Wifi was certainly important, and shoes, shoes were a very important issue for my daughters. I had no desire to talk to my kids about the internet, or footwear, or, in the case of my sons, gaming systems. “I’m not sure there’s anything that I can talk to them about, that they’re interested in.”, I said.

“Well,”, my wife responded, “then just don’t talk at all.”

“I’m sorry.”, I advised her. “That’s really not an option.”

“Do you remember what you told one of them years ago, and the trouble it caused?”, I was asked.

Many, many years ago, when my middle daughter was in elementary school, grade 1 or 2, I had informed her that my family was from another planet, far far away. At school one day, they were asked to talk about their families, and where they were from. My daughter spoke up, and reported that her mother’s family was from Spain, and Morocco, while her father’s family was from another planet, that she couldn’t remember the name of. Well, there was a big tadoo at the school, and my wife and I had to attend to discuss my daughter making up stories, and disrupting the class. My wife was embarrassed, but she embarrasses easily. I informed the school administration that unless they could prove my daughter had been untruthful, we really had nothing to discuss. I was asked by the Principal to confirm that my family did indeed come from another planet. I merely replied that I could not answer a question like that as it could jeopardise the entire mission. We left the meeting no worse for wear, and my daughter received no consequence for the revelation of her family history.

“I remember.”, I told my wife. “And I still think that I should have shot them with my laser.”

“Go talk to your daughter,”, she advised me, shaking her head in disbelief.

I went for a walk with my daughter, to Riverdale Farm,  and Sugar Beach. It was, after all spring, and the smell of manure permeated the air.

“Did you bring your camera?”, I asked her. “You’ll never know when you just might see a Toronto Blue Jay.”