In Sickness & In Health

by Solomon Tate

 

My wife has been sick. Its nothing too serious, just a sinus cold accompanied by a very sore throat and a nagging dry cough, but it has been lingering for almost a week. I have done my best to nurse her back to health, but the other night, while I slept, the microbes of death and destruction that had been breeding in her system made their way to my side of the bed and like squatters took up residence in my system. I woke up sick. Together we lay in bed with dripping eyes and running noses, coughing and sneezing, while we try to figure out who’s going to make us soup as my kids roam around the house providing no useful service to us at all.

“I don’t have the energy to get up and get anything.” she says. “In a few days we could starve to death.”

“Unlikely.” I remind her. “We can always order in.”

“Who’s going to go to the door?” she asks. I had no answer for her. I only knew that it wasn’t going to be me.

I asked one of my daughters who has been going out all weekend to bring us something back. “Can you bring me a milk shake or something?” I asked. “My throat is killing me.”

“No.” she said. “I don’t know when I’ll be home and I don’t want to carry it around.”

“It doesn’t weigh very much.” I said. “You can just pick it up on your way home.”

“Its out of the way.” she informed me. “I have some Pepsi in the fridge you can have. But only take one can.”

“I told you.” my wife said. “We’re going to die in here.” I suppose it was a possibility, but I was not prepared to surrender. I headed out into the rain and returned with soup, bread, tea, and honey.

“I think I pulled a muscle in my chest from all  the coughing.”, I said. “This is brutal.”

“You’ll start to feel better soon.”, she said.

“You think so?”

“No” she said, “but one of us has to take care of us and I’m pretty sure it won’t be me. I’m sick.”

“In case you haven’t noticed” I said, “I’m pretty sick too.”

“I know.” she said. “But you’ve already gone out in the rain and everything, and there’s no point in both of us getting worse.” Her logic, as always, was irrefutable. There was no sense in both of us getting worse. I just wasn’t sure why it always had to be me.

By the next day, I had developed a fever to add to the assortment of symptoms already plaguing me, and my head felt like it was in a vice, slowly being tightened bit by bit. It was almost impossible to get out of bed. “Well” I told her, “I’m definitely worse.” She just smiled and headed off to the kitchen, returning with a cup of tea and honey.

“Here” she said, “this should make your throat feel a bit better.”

“Thanks.”, I told her. “Its good to know that you’ll take care of me.”

“Of course.”, she said. “I need you better by tomorrow. The garbage has to go out.”

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The Rescue

by Solomon Tate

 

The kids were asking how their mother and I met. It wasn’t the first time and I couldn’t understand why it was so important that they hear it again. But it was. “Go ahead and tell them.” my wife said. “Just make something up. It will be fun.” And with that I shared the story of how I met their mother.

It was spring I think, and it was raining. It was the kind of April rain that went on for days and left you scratching your head in the garage wondering just how big of a boat you were going to have to build. I had just returned from Alberta, working on a case involving a missing mime. Despite the lack of assistance from numerous witnesses who just wouldn’t talk, I managed to locate the artist who had inadvertently trapped himself in some kind of box. Upon my return, a friend of mine asked if I would assist in locating a friend of his sister’s who had disappeared while vacationing in The Bahamas. It seemed that she had walked out of her hotel room to spend the day swimming with dolphins, and no one had seen or heard from her in three days. As a favor to my friend, I headed down to Nassau to try to find the missing woman.

It was hot as hell in Nassau. I checked out the hotel first, and after showing her picture around, one of the desk clerks remembered seeing her leave the hotel around nine in the morning dressed in beachwear, just as he was beginning his shift. She was alone. She had neither received or made any phone calls from her room. I headed over to the dolphin enclosure, where a few of the staff recognized her from the photo, but none of them could be certain what time she arrived or departed the attraction.  A local kid selling shells on the beach claimed that he had seen her head into the water with a few of the dolphins a little after nine o’clock, but couldn’t remember her coming back. I checked in with the local police to find that their investigation into the disappearance had yielded no significant leads. As far as they were concerned, the young woman had simply drowned while swimming with dolphins. Their plan was to wait until the body washed up onto the beach which they almost always did. I had done some reading on the flight down about dolphins and I knew that they would never have let her drown. That night I returned to the dolphin enclosure. I knew that they were intelligent beings, and I was sure that they knew something. The truth was, I needed their help.

I sat on the pier armed with a bucket of mackerel, hoping to entice them to talk. I can’t be sure if it was the smell of the fish or the light from my lantern, but before long I was face to face with an entire pod of whistling, clicking and squeaking dolphins. One in particular who bore a striking resemblance to Henry Limpitt, He was quite vocal and seemed to be trying to get my attention. I fed him some of the mackerel and asked what he knew of the missing woman. Now, I know this will be hard to believe, hell, I still have a hard time understanding how it happened, but the dolphin answered me. The sounds he made somehow became recognizable words to me, as if he were speaking English. His name was Jasper, and he knew where the missing woman was. He told me that some renegade killer whales had taken her and had made her their queen. They had been harboring her in a underwater cave nearby. Using the fish as a bargaining chip, he agreed to bring her to me, despite the obvious danger the dolphins would face. It took about an hour, but the dolphins returned, carrying the woman with them. Sadly, Jasper had lost his life in the battle to set the whale queen free. I brought the woman ashore, and she hugged me so tight, I thought I felt a rib or two crack. I wrapped my jacket around her and we headed toward the police station. She said she was hungry, so we stopped for something to eat. She devoured everything in sight, but I couldn’t help notice how incredibly beautiful she was. She had these incredibly dark eyes that seemed to sparkle in the light of the candle burning on the table, and a smile that lit up the rest of the room. Hell, I wanted her right there and then. But I was on a case.

The police didn’t seem to believe the tale we told, but they agreed to close the case nonetheless and allow us to leave the island. On the flight home I asked her to go out with me. She seemed a little reluctant at first, but she agreed. “Just so we’re clear” she said, “there will be no sex on the first date.”

“Well” I replied, “then I guess there will have to be a second date.” And as luck would have it, we were both true to our word. There was no sex on the first date, but we successfully went out on a second date. “That’s the best version yet.” my wife said.

“Its bullshit.” my son informed his wife. “He just makes this shit up as he goes along.”

“But its one hell of a story.” my daughter’s boyfriend said.

“The story changes every time.” one of my daughters said.

“Who is Henry Limpitt?” another daughter asked.

Despite what the kids thought, my wife and I have been together ever since, through calm and stormy seas, although sometimes its just like that first date all over again.

Dream On…

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

I had a dream. It wasn’t one of those profoundly, visionary dreams about social justice or the salvation of humanity, but it was still worthy of a heavenly chorus of angels. No, it was better than that. It deserved a ‘Be My Baby’ chorus of The Ronettes. It was an epic dream. I carried it with me for years and years, despite the many times that life had kicked me in the nuts without a second thought as I dragged my tired ass out of Madame Lee’s Pleasure Dome where you could get the one hour Pussy Cat Special and a raging case of genital warts for one hundred dollars, all while listening to synthetic 60s cover tunes by The Pervasive Taoist Orchestra or The Shanghai Swing Quartet.

Emily stood by a door, appearing dazed and confused by what was going on around her. It was obvious that she really didn’t want to be where she was. We connected from the first time we spoke. She had the heart of a poet, and was a self proclaimed environmentalist, vegetarian, and feminist, even though none of it was fashionable at the time. Her tortured soul and the sordid secrets she had been keeping propelled her into the world found at the bottom of an alcohol saturated rabbit hole filled with assorted drugs and Cheshire cats. We were floating back then without really going anywhere, circling fields of white rabbits and Mad Hatters and the occasional caterpillar armed with a hookah, though none of it really seemed to make any sense to either of us.

We spent a lot of time together, wandering around the Fish Hatchery and the small water fall nearby, but Emily was most comfortable just hanging out and getting high while we listened to Yes, or The Beatles. She was a fun high, all smiles and giggles but interested in everything. We talked for hours on end and neither of us ever seemed to grow tired of it. She was insanely hot, and while I toyed with thoughts of depravity and debauchery, quite surprisingly and totally out of character, I was more interested in her friendship than the amusement park that lay nestled between her thighs. We were, it appeared to me, kindred spirits. I had lived many lives, and I had played many roles. I had been many things to many people. I had, much like Sinatra, been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I had played each of these parts in the only manner I could, and I had no doubt that they all served to take me exactly to where I was supposed to be.  I was sure that it was with Emily at that time and place, and I was just as certain that she would remain a part of my life forever.

She had an edge about her though, an anger that she carried deep within, masking it with smiles and laughter and I suspect getting high. She never told me much about her past, but it seemed like she was always trying to forget something. The sixty days we spent together were some of the best times of my life, and when we went our separate ways, we promised to keep in touch. We did for a while. I visited her in her home town a couple of times, and she came up to see me a few times as well. In between there was some letter writing and an occasional phone call until she moved overseas and, as inevitably happens, we lost touch. I tried to find her, but after thirty-five years or so had passed, I pretty much had given up. More than anything, I wanted to see her again. I wanted to know that she was alright, that she had beaten her demons and that she was happy and at peace. And that was my dream, just to be sure that she was finally okay.

A few years ago, she found me, and we reconnected. We talked as if we had spoken everyday for thirty-five years. She told me her secret and I understood the anger. I wished I had known back then. I wish I could have helped her, but I suppose she just wasn’t ready to deal with it then. We talk often, although not as much as I would like to, and she is happy and at peace. She is married to a great guy, and together they have a busload of kids scattered across two continents, and a van load of grandchildren. She is still interested in everything, and continues to amaze me with her involvement in service to others. There is a plan for her to come for a visit sometime soon, and I really hope it happens. If not, well that will be okay I mean that dream of mine from all of those years ago came true. And that is certainly more than enough.

 

What About The Kids?

 

“What about the kids?”, my wife asked.

“What kids?”, I replied.

“Your kids.”, she told me. “Our kids. Remember them?”

“Uh huh.”, I answered. “What about them?”

“I’m not sure we can go away and leave them here alone?”

“Well, there’s no way I’m taking them with.”, I informed her.

“What if they burn the house down?”, she asked. And there it was, her obsessive fear of the house burning down. It was almost impossible to overcome. It was her belief that a fire would start in the kitchen as a result of the misuse of the kitchen appliances. Therefore, it stood to reason that if we were home, or if at least one of us was at home, the house would be saved from destruction. She had established very strict rules regarding the use of the kitchen appliances, which she routinely enforced by patrolling the kitchen like a a game warden, keeping a watchful eye for perpetrators and those she suspected were about to violate her rules.

She regularly ventures into the kitchen just to check what temperature the oven is set on, and if it is higher than three hundred and fifty degrees, she turns it down. It means nothing to her that the directions clearly stated to cook at four hundred and twenty five. It is not permitted. The choices are to cook it thirty to forty minutes longer, or eat it under cooked. And every fifteen minutes, like clockwork, she makes the obligatory trip back to the kitchen, opens the oven door and checks on the status of the food inside, lest it be burning, and in the process aggravates and agitates anyone who is cooking at the time.

The broiler is completely off limits. It has been deemed too dangerous for us to use as she fears the five hundred degree temperature it cooks at the most. Stove top cooking is only permissible if the burner is set at no more than a number six. Frying is permitted depending on her level of paranoia, and had been very close to being outlawed altogether. There was an incident. Nothing significant, but for my wife it was confirmation of the impending doom that can result from unauthorized cooking.

“Is somebody cooking something?”, she asked late one evening.

“I don’t know.”, I answered.

“Well”, she continued, “I smell something burning.”

“You always smell something’s burning.” It was uncanny really. She could smell something burning before it actually started burning. It was one of her many gifts, a sort of ‘something’s burning’ savant. “Nothing’s burning.”, I told her. “No one’s home except the two of us.”

“I have to go check.”, she stated as she got up out of bed.

“Well?”, I asked as she returned from her trip to the kitchen.

“You have to check that you turn the burner off!”, she exclaimed. “You dropped something in the bottom and left it on. At number eight! Its never to go above six. We’ve been over this. Five would be better, but I’m trying to be reasonable. The entire kitchen is filled with smoke. Next time you might just burn the whole place down.”

“I hope not.”, I replied. “I don’t think I’ll live long enough to hear all of the lectures.”

“This is why we can’t go away.”, she continued. “None of you pay attention to what you’re doing. The kids are too lazy to check and you, well, you just can’t remember what you’re doing anymore.”

“Well then”, I suggested. “We’ll just have to order in.” I went into the kitchen to check the extensive smoke damaged created by a crumb sitting under a hot burner. It was not filled with smoke. I was hard pressed to find any smoke at all. There was however, to my wife’s credit, the faint odor of something having been burnt, and in the bottom of the burner, there was, oh hell no, a solitary penne noodle. It was burnt. It was badly burnt. I gave it last rites, the best funeral I could, with full military honors and a burial at sea.

We can still fry, despite her misgivings, however she did implement a buddy system. There must be two people in the kitchen at all times, with one of them assigned to ensuring the temperature settings are within limits, and that everything is turned off when completed.

“I think she needs help.”, one of my daughters disclosed as she stood there as my cooking buddy while I made chicken parmigiana.

“She’ll be alright.”, I told her. “She just worries about safety.”

“She’s out of her mind.”, she explained. “Its an electric oven. There’s no flame or fire. Does she think that the food is going to spontaneously combust?” It was hard to argue with that, and I agreed to speak with my wife.

“I need to talk to you about something.”, I said as I entered the bedroom.

“Are you done in the kitchen?”, she asked anxiously.

“It will take thirty minutes to cook, and the oven is set at three hundred.”, I said. “Its under control. Are you alright with that?”

“For the time being.”, she replied.

“Good. I think you need to relax the cooking rules a little.”, I advised. “Its making everyone a nervous wreck.”

“I can’t help it.”, she said.

“I know.”, I reminded her. “But we really are pretty careful. I just don’t think we can ever meet the expectations you’v e set for us. We’re going to make mistakes, but in all of the years we’ve been cooking, there has never been a fire.”

“That’s because I’m always running into the kitchen and checking on everything.”, she informed me.

“No.”, I replied. “Its because we really do know what we’re doing. I just think you can let up a little.”

“How?”, she asked.

“Well, for one, stop running into the kitchen to check on everything all of the time. You can go in the kitchen to make a tea or something and check on stuff, you know, make it less obvious. And stop telling the kids what to do and how to do it. They’re not little kids. They’re all grown up.”

“So, the kids are complaining?”, she inquired.

“Ya, they are.”, I answered.

“And what about you?”, she questioned.

“Well you can check on me as often as you need to, and you can give me shit whenever you feel like it. Just like its been since the day we got married. Can you live with that?”

“I suppose.”, she said. “But the broiler is still off limits.”

“Agreed.”, I replied.

“Don’t you think you should go and check the chicken you left in the oven?”, she asked.

“On my way.”, I told her. She was surprisingly calm, and I hoped that she would be okay. Over dinner I brought up the weekend trip again.

“Alright.”, she said. “We’ll go to Niagara On The Lake for the weekend.” I was, to say the least, pleasantly surprised.

“I’m glad.”, I told her. “And I think it will be good for you.”

“Well”, she continued, “It took some work and some planning but, my mother will come and stay with the kids until we get back.”

“Okay.”, I replied. “That’s sounds like a plan.”

“Ya, and they will be ordering in all weekend.”, she advised me.

“Really?”, I inquired.

“Ya.”, she went on to explain. “We will be removing the circuit for the oven when we leave. They won’t be able to cook with it all weekend.”

“Well its nice to see that you have overcome your fear of the house burning down.”, I told her as sarcastically as I could.

“Ya”, she stated, “It wasn’t really as difficult as I thought it would be.”

 

Passed Over

 

The celebration of a holiday steeped in tradition and family was pre-empted this year due to several family crises. My wife suggested that we do it in a week or so. “We can do it then, right?”, she asked.

“I don’t think we can.”, I informed her.

“Why not?”, she asked.

“I think that a Passover Seder must be held on Passover.”, I answered.

“Who says?”, she queried.

“Well”, I replied, “6000 years of history and tradition, and several bus loads of Orthodox Rabbis en route to a Hassidic convention in Monsey, New York.”

“Are you sure?”, she inquired.

“Pretty sure.”, I told her.

“Well”, she said, “that sucks.”

“Indeed.”, I agreed.

So, with all of the preparation, the cooking and cleaning, the purchasing of seder specific foods, and the table being set, one of my sons, the chef, called to let his mother know that he could not attend as there was an emergency at work. I had no idea what a kitchen emergency could be, short of a fire, but he was clear that was not the case. I suspect that either the sous chef burnt the beef wellington, or some one screwed up the marinara sauce, so he had to go and rectify the problem. “Well”, my wife said, “everyone else will be here, so it will still be okay.”

We headed out to the store to pick up a few final items for my vegetarian/vegan son, and had to visit 3 different supermarkets to obtain the specific foods he would eat. With the morning gone, we began the final organization of food, seating, and Passover paraphernalia. There was another call, this time from my vegetarian son, stating that he was in the E.R. at a local hospital. It seems that he was experiences chest pains through the night, and had been transported by ambulance to the hospital. I went down to check out what was going on, being asked to bring him an orange juice and a chocolate chip muffin, and upon my arrival I found him in a room, not hooked up to any piece of equipment whatsoever. ‘What the hell is going on?”, I asked him.

“I don’t know.”, he said. “I was having chest pains, and my arm felt kind of weird, so I called 911.”

“What did the doctor say?”, I asked.

“Nothing really.”, he replied. “They took blood, and did a chest x-ray. We’re waiting for the results.” He asked if I could go to his place and pick up his boots and socks, as he arrived only with his slippers. I suggested that he get his wife to bring his stuff over, as I was not delivering his shoes.

When the doctor arrived, he was very sure that it was a cardiac event, but more than likely anxiety, or perhaps a pulled muscle. He was discharged, and I gave him money for a cab home, and I headed home myself. At home, I informed my wife that neither he, nor his wife would be attending the seder, as he was going to sleep as he had been up all night. I was told that while I was at the hospital with my son, one of my daughters called and, since neither of her brothers were attending, she didn’t think it was worthwhile coming down, and with my wife’s assistance, put a plan in place to conduct the seder within the next few weeks.

In the meantime, there was a fridge and freezer filled with food. The pantry was bursting with items to be served along side the main courses. There was chicken and brisket, roast potatoes, candied carrots, soup, fricassee and meatballs, gefilte fish, and a host of Moroccan dishes that my wife had grown up with. “What are we going to do with all of this food?”, I asked as I surveyed the abundance of food that had been systematically organized and arranged in the kitchen.

“We’re going to eat it.”, my wife said. “And what we can’t eat, we’re going to freeze.”

It was a very disappointing evening for me. At this time of year, my thoughts dive headlong into the memories of childhood Passovers spent at my parents home. Being with family, the traditions, the food, and the hockey playoff games that inevitably were on at the same time of year, and how my brothers and I, feigning a need to use the bathroom, headed downstairs to catch just a few minutes of the game and to at least check on the score. And upon returning to the table, my father would inevitably ask “What’s the score?”. That too had become our family tradition. And when the seder was done, satiated with food and the story of the emancipation from bondage, we headed to bed, taking comfort in the Leafs’ victory over the Bruins.

This year, however, there was no family. There was no tradition. And as I get older, they both seem to carry increased importance to me. “We’ll have our own seder.”, I told my wife. “There’s you and me, and the two girls. It’ll be fine.”

“The girls won’t be here.”, she informed me. “When they heard no one was coming, they made plans to go out with friends.”

“I see.”, I replied. I didn’t really. I was quite dejected, wallowing in the disappointment of childhood memories that seemed gone forever.

“We can do it together.”, she said. “Just the two of us.”

“Its okay.”, I told her. “I just don’t know why its so hard for everyone to get together twice a year. They’re always too busy. How come we’re never too busy? They’re going to forget everything we taught them. But we should eat. At least I won’t have to put pants on.”  We sat at the table, and before we could begin to eat, my wife looked over at me.

“You are a good father.”, she told me. “We’ll be fine, and they’ll be fine. No matter what they forget, they will never forget what’s important. We did a good job with those kids.”

I felt better. She always made me feel better. “I don’t think I want to do this next year.”, I told her. “I think one of the kids should hold the seder at their place. And maybe, we should have a crisis and have to cancel.”

“If that’s what you want to do”, she said, “we’ll do it. It sounds like fun. Its about time we screwed them around.” At that precise moment in time I realized that this was exactly where I was always supposed to be.

 

 

 

 

The Handyman

 

“Do you remember…”, my wife began, and I braced myself. Every time she began with that phrase, it meant we were about to set out on a review of all of the tings I had done wrong, or had forgot to do, in front of all of the kids. She thought it was cute and funny and something my kids’ partners should be made aware of.

“Do you remember the time you tried to put that barbecue together?”, she asked.

“I don’t think so.”, I answered.

“Oh, come on.” she said. “Sure you do. We were living in that big, old farm house. You were out in the back yard with your tool box. I was watching you from the kitchen window. You kept dropping screws, and were crawling round in the grass looking for them. When you were done you had all of these left over parts.”

“They always put extra screws in those things.”, I said.

“That’s exactly what you said then.”, she continued. “And when you put the burgers on the grill, the whole thing tipped over, and the food was on the ground. Remember? We had to throw it all out and order pizza.”

“Ya. Ya.” I said. “I remember. I also remember you thought it was the best pizza you’d ever tasted.

“I remember that.”, one of my sons responded.”

“For that you wake up?”, I asked him.

“It was funny.”, he said. “You were so mad.”

“And what about the time he tried to build a wall unit.”, another son stated.

“Oh ya.”, my wife said. “You put the doors on upside down. The whole thing was backwards.”

“It worked, didn’t it?”, I asked.

“Well, we couldn’t use the drawers or the cupboards.”, one of my daughters stated.

“You don’t need drawers or cupboards on a wall unit.”, I answered.

“Didn’t he try to put a crib together once?”, another daughter asked.

“Oh, that was great.”, my wife answered. “He wound up shoving a screwdriver through his hand. 5 stitches, and nerve damage in a finger.”

“The damn crib was put together, wasn’t it?”, I stated.

“Yes it was.”, my wife answered, as condescending as I had ever heard her.

“Are we done.”, I asked.

“I don’t think so.”, she said. “I’m sure there’s more.”

“And the desk.”, someone shouted.

“Right.”, my wife shrieked. “You built me a desk. Lifted it out of the box, and pulled your back out. But you just kept on trying.”

“You still use that desk, don’t you?”, I pointed out.

“I do.”, she replied, “but I rebuilt it myself, afterwards. well, the kids helped.”

“Didn’t you get hurt a lot when you were a kid?”, one of my daughters decided to join in.

“I don’t remember.”, I replied.

“Oh, sure you do.”, my wife interjected. “Your mother told me all kinds of stuff. When you were 5 or so, you got a hazel nut shell in your eye. Almost lost the eye.”

“Didn’t one of us almost poke his eye out?”, a son asked.

“Yes.”, my wife answered. “You did.”. she said looking at my eldest daughter.”You wanted him to read you a book, when he said no, you hit him in the eye with the book. What did the doctor say?”

“Detached retina.”, I answered.

“Right.”, my wife continued. “For 3 weeks he walked around with a patch on his eye. It was like living with Jack Sparrow. And, you fell off of the roof of your parent’s house at least once, right? Right. And what happened when you went through the screen door?”

“Nothing happened.”, I said. ” I was running down the hall, and pushed the door to open it so I could go outside. I missed the handle, so the door didn’t open, and I ran right through the glass.”

“And the can opener.”, my son shouted.

“Oh, yeah.”, my wife said as she laughed. “What were you trying to open, a can of tuna? Well it doesn’t matter. We had just got one of those openers that are supposed to make it safer to handle the cans. Well, not for him. He was draining the liquid, and he yelled “Oh shit”. When I went to the kitchen, I saw him with a dish towel wrapped around his hand, and blood pouring out. 7 stitches, and nerve damage in the rest of the hand.”

“Holy shit.”, one of my sons said. “You probably shouldn’t do anything.”

“What I should do”, I told him, “Is kick your scrawny ass.”

“Oh, relax.”, my wife said. “You probably just wind up pulling a muscle or something.”

“Are we done?”, I asked as I stood up. “I’m going to smoke now.”

“Almost.”, my wife continued so I sat back down. She came over and sat on my lap, putting her arms around my neck. “And yet”, she said, “he is the best man I know. He has always kept me and the kids safe, and he makes me laugh. He is always there for us, helping us fight our fights, and making the pain and fear go away.” She looked me in the eye and continued. “And just so you know, I don’t need you to put things together, or build me things. You do more for me, for us, than you even realize, and I wouldn’t change a thing. You are the best husband I could have imagined.”

“Well”, I said, “now the truth finally comes out.”

“Just one thing though.”, she said. “If you’re going to cook, please let me know. You never remember to turn the oven off.”

“Oh, I remember.”, I told her. “I just choose not to do it because I know how how happy it makes you to think you need to take care of me.”

“You 2 are so messed up.”, one of my daughters said.

“Ya.”, my wife said. “But we like it that way.”

 

 

 

 

A Holiday Miracle

 

“You’ve got to be kidding!”, I said.

“No.”, my wife replied. “I’m pretty sure he took it all home.”

“Why the hell would he do that?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, she replied. “Except we always give him stuff.”

“Did you give it to him?”, I asked.

“No.” She said. “I just assumed you did.”

“”I’m not doing this again.”, I stated. “From now on, we go to someone else’s place.”

And so ended a rather precarious night. It began several hours earlier, when all of the kids and their partners came over for another of our bi-annual family fun fests, filled with festivity, frivolity, and food. They arrived en masse, marching in like the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea, tossing jackets down the hallway and into the living room,  wandering into the kitchen, opening the fridge, and re emerging for the customary hugs. “I don’t know why you still can’t hang a jacket up.”, my wife said as she picked their coats up off of the floor.

“Just leave them.”, I told her. “No body eats until they hang up their coats.”

“What are we having?”, one of my daughters asked.

“Did you cook or are we ordering in?”, another one inquired.

“They didn’t cook.”, a son stated. “I already checked.”

“Well”, I said, “None of you will be eating until those coats are hung up.”

The traditional Chinese food for the holidays meal was becoming near impossible to coordinate. Someone was allergic to shrimp. There were prohibitions to beef, pork and chicken, garlic, and broccoli. There was even a Vegetarian. “It was so simple when they were little.”, my wife said.

“I know.”, I tried to console her.

“They were happy with fish sticks and fries.”, she continued.

“Just order what ever you want to order. They will eat, or they won’t.”, I advised.

The food arrived, and everyone found something they could enjoy. I settled in to hot & sour soup, while my wife tackled the order of ribs that lay before her. There were noodle dishes, beef dishes, and chicken dishes. For the Vegetarian, who would not eat from the Chinese restaurant, there was vegetarian pizza. Dinner was followed by board games, lemon coffee cake, blueberry pie, and an assortment of goodies covered in chocolate, all served to a background of assorted Progressive Rock.

“What the hell are we listening to?”, someone said.

“It’s the old man’s stoner music.”, one of my kids blurted out.

“Are you high?”, someone asked me.

“He’s usually high.”, my wife responded. “For as long as I’ve known him.”

“Actually”, I responded, “I’m just comfortably numb.”

“And there’s the Pink Floyd reference.”, one of my son’s acknowledged.

“Does anyone want coffee?”, my wife asked the throng of trolls still hovering around the table.

Over the course of the next hour or so, each one of my kids wanted to speak to me in private. To be honest, I was scared. It was never good when they want to talk to me. It usually involves them asking for money. But this year, it was different.  One son was leaving his partner after 4 years. Turns out she’s a bitch. A daughter wants to have her her in-laws committed. Apparently, they are insane. My other son is having problems with his wife. It seems that she requires far more maintenance than he had anticipated. And finally, one of my daughters merely wanted money. It seems that she had a significant credit card debt that she wanted me to pay off. For the record, she was told no.

“And now”, I said to all of them, “I want you all to go home and think about which one of you will be taking your mother and I in, when we get too old to take care of yourselves.”

“I thought you were going to a seniors’ home.”, someone said.

“We’re not going to any home.”, my wife stated, as they hastily put on their coats and boots. And somewhere in the confusion of which jacket belonged to who, and where did she leave her purse, the Bermuda like triangle in my living room opened up. As we closed the door behind the last one to leave, we notice the barren table.

“Where is all of the stuff?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, my wife said.

“Well”, I continued, “It was all here just a few minutes ago.”

“Its not there now.”, she advised, stating the obvioust the obvious.

“Well”, I continued, “It didn’t just walk away on its own.”

“You’re starting to sound like your father.”, she informed me.

“Well, sometimes he was right.”, I replied.

“I think one of the kids took it home.”, I was told. “Probably Terry.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”, I said.

“No.”, my wife replied. “I’m pretty sure he took it all home.”

“Why the hell would he do that?”, I asked.

“I don’t know.”, she replied. “Except we always give him stuff.”

“Did you give it to him?”, I asked.

“No.” She said. “I just assumed you did.”

“I’m not doing this again.”, I stated. “From now on, we go to someone else’s place. I think you should call the boy and ask him what the hell he thought he was doing.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”, she said. “It was only the coffee cake, and the pie.”

“Well, you may want to sit down for this.”, I told her. “But he took all of the chocolate-cashews, and the chocolate pretzels.”

“What the hell.”, she bellowed. “What’s wrong with him.”

“Oh”, I reminded her, “Its not that big of a deal.”

“You’re right.”, she said. “Its okay. It’s just nice to have everyone down here so we’re all together. Everyone is healthy, and they have such a good time together. It’s a miracle.”

“The fact that we never put the little shits up for adoption”, I stated, now that’s the real miracle.

“You don’t mean that.”, she said, as she put her arm around my waist. “You’re just upset that he took your coffee cake without asking.”

“It was lemon coffee cake.”, I reminded her.

“Let’s go to bed.”, she said, as she gave me a gentle tug towards the bedroom. “I’m pretty sure you’re going to get lucky tonight.”

“Wow.”, I said. “Another Holiday miracle.”

Welcome To The PTA

 

“Forgive me for interrupting this pretentious discussion of the sordid affairs of your politico-religious existence,” , she said quite loudly to the small group that had gathered near the door, “but the reality is, you’re all full of shit.” The droning murmur of inane chatter that had filled the room suddenly stopped.

“Nicely done.”, I told her.

“Thank you.”, she said. “I’ve been rehearsing.”

“It shows.”, I replied.  “I think we should go now.”

“Really?”, she asked, with an air of disappointment.

“Really.”, I said. “This could get very ugly.”

And so began our ongoing battle with our children’s school. Up until then, it had been my role to challenge the powers that be, to shake the status quo at its very foundation, to deliberate, dissect, and disgrace those involved with the task of educating my children. It was quite satisfying to know that my wife was equally up to the challenge.

“That was quite impressive.”, I continued as we walked to the car.

“Thank you.”, she responded. “I had an excellent teacher.”

“Well, its nice to know you were paying attention.”, I said.

“Do you really think that after all these years of listening to you that something wouldn’t have rubbed off?”, she asked.

The phone call we received the next day came as no surprise. The school administration, including the school’s Superintendent, had requested a meeting with us to discuss several concerns related to our kids. It did not sit well with my wife.

“Concerns with our kids?”, she ranted. “Are they out of their minds?”

“They are.”, I confirmed. “But you have to try to relax. We have to go in calm and seemingly rational, no matter how pissed we are. Never let them know what we are thinking.”

“That’s good.”, she said.

“Yep.”, I replied. “Words to live by from Vito Colerone.”

The meeting was more of a lynching, with 6 school and board personnel present, armed with files, and reports. They positioned themselves at one end of the table, so that my wife and I were forced to sit at the opposite end, looking like guilty school children. “Have a seat, please.”, the principal stated.

“I think I’d prefer to stand.”, I responded., as my wife sat down in her assigned seat. “What I have to say really won’t take very long.”

“However we have a rather lengthy list of concerns regarding your children.”, the Superintendent spouted.

“I’m sure you do.”, I replied. “But I really have no interest in hearing any of them. So, I understand that the teacher who had manhandled my daughter is still teaching in the school.”

“We have finished our investigation into the matter, and we don’t believe there is any need for further disciplinary measures.”, he answered.

“Well”, I said as I put my hand on my wife’s shoulder. “I don’t believe there is any need to continue this meeting.”, I stated as my wife stood up.

“Just a minute.”, the Superintendent said. “There are issues here we need to address.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”, I replied. “Did I not make it clear that we really don’t give a shit about what you think?”.

“Well”, he continued. “Now we see why the children have so many behavioral issues.”

“Hell no.”, I corrected him. “You haven’t seen anything yet. I suggested you contact your superior, and have yourself, the principal of this school, the teacher and the Board of Education obtain legal counsel. I have secured a human rights attorney who is, as we speak, presenting a motion to bar Ms. Emmerson from teaching until a full and complete inquiry has been completed. As well, criminal charges for assault, and child abuse are being laid against this deranged woman. And the rest of you who were aware of the issues we raised, and did nothing, have been named in a civil law suit, as has the board. Papers should be served to all of you within the next 72 hours.”

“I don’t know what you think you’re going to get out of this.”, the Superintendent questioned.

“Oh.”, I reported, “I almost forgot. You may want to watch the 6 o’clock news tonight. Doesn’t matter which network. They are all airing this story. As to what I think I’m going to get out of this, well, your fucking jobs. Your careers, and your reputations.”

The silence that fell on the room was deafening. The Superintendent finally spoke. “Can I speak with you outside?”  My wife and I joined him in the hallway, just outside of the school Principal’s office. “Don’t you think this can be rectified in some other way?”

“That ship has sailed.”, I replied. “We spoke several times, and you informed me every time that there were no grounds for any disciplinary action. You blamed my daughter, and justified the teacher’s actions. And so, now, you’re all fucked. Get Ms. Emmerson out of my kid’s school, and I will consider withdrawing the legal proceedings. Can I be frank with you?”

“Of course.”, he said.

“Do yourself a favor.”, I told him. “Don’t fuck with my family. We will take you down.”

“Well, that was pretty amazing.”, my wife said to me in the car. “How did you arrange all of that stuff.”

“I didn’t.”, I told her. “My friend Jerod is a lawyer. He’s drafting some letters, but now we wait to see what they do with our offer. They can transfer her wherever we don’t have kids.”

“What about the news casts tonight?”, she asked. “If they watch and its not on, they’ll know we’re full of shit.”

“It will be on.”, I assured her. “That I was able to arrange through Jerod. All three networks will air a report on a child being assaulted by a teacher and how the school and the board swept it under the rug.”

“You’re pretty sexy when you’re devious.”, she said.

In less than 24 hours, we received an email stating that effective immediately, Ms. Emmerson had been removed from the staff at my kid’s school, and transferred to another school at the far end of the school district. A formal letter from the school board arrived several days later, with a full and complete apology from the Board.

Things changed at my kid’s school. My kids seemed happier, and we no longer received phone calls about nonsense. When we did attend planning meetings for our kid’s, our ideas and recommendations were included in the plan. We never saw Ms. Emmerson again, and a few months later, the school principal disappeared. I told my wife that I had nothing to do with it, but I’m not sure if she believed me. My wife decided to become active in the PTA, and wound up being president. Me, well, I took satisfaction in knowing that my dream of being a Mafia enforcer had come true, and that I could easily turn my wife on by behaving like a character from Goodfellas.

 

 

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..

 

 

 

 

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.”