Monday, June 7, 2010

Dad's Sunday Lesson or Jesus In My Stomach and the F Word

That creepy smug expression on my younger brother’s face gave me a solidly foreboding hint about how the rest of that Sunday was going to go. 

When he flopped down on the car seat with his arms crossed, and sat completely still with that damn prissy Chiclet-toothed grin, he purposely trained his eyes to stare out the windshield with that annoying superior glint he knew I hated.  He was calculating his amazing windfall of leverage over me.   He was silently patting his suddenly very full ammo bag ready to shoot the first volley once Dad came back.  He was loaded. 
He was going to tell.
Sunday mornings meant Dad stopping by each of our rooms at 6 a.m. to snatch the bedcovers off of us in one deft yank yelling, “It’s time to pay the piper!” 

That was Dad code for:   “It’s time to go to Mass!” 

We’d roll out moaning and scowl at Mom, who was Lutheran and exempt, as she put out our dress-up clothes. Mom even got the morning off of breakfast duty since, in those days, one fasted before taking communion. 
Sister Aloysius Gonzaga de Josephina Maria said it was so that the chunk of the actual body of Christ we were eating had a nice unobstructed pure entrance into our stomachs and could do the most good with our little heathen lives.   God forbid Jesus had to work around a bellyful of Fruit Loops!  Or bacon, for the love of Pete.  He was Jewish after all. 
Starving, I buttoned myself into a jumper or skirt with blouse, yanked on white socks and screwed my beach roughened feet into black patent leather baby doll shoes.  (Jesus, I liked to think, really enjoyed the occasional pixie stick or Jolly Rancher candy I kept stashed and ate before Mass to keep my stomach from roaring in church.  Must’ve been much like getting a nice courtesy basket when visiting somewhere.)
My brother had to wear seersucker shorts, shirt with tie, a jacket, white socks and the dreaded White Buck Shoes with Orange Soles, like Dad’s.  They looked like Atticus Finch and mini-Atticus Finch together.  I was a dour Scout bringing up the rear,  all wrinkly and mopey wishing I were barefoot in my swimsuit.  i was not happy being hustled off in Dad’s rust-colored Oldsmobile convertible  to church where everything smelled funny .
Church was in a hospital for us.  The aroma was a mélange of incense, bleach, flowers and pee.  Dad was a General Practice Physician and would put all his patients in Holy Cross Hospital.  He was pretty crafty to make us attend Mass there in the chapel so he could multi-task and do a complete set of “rounds” checking on his patients after services. 
Luckily, Father “Machine Gun” Kelly said the Mass at a light-speed pace like he was unloading a clip on a Gatling gun and we were usually done in twenty minutes.  Saying goodbye every single Sunday, he couldn’t say enough about our chlorine green hair since being on a swimming team had given our white blonde locks an absinthe colored tint. 

“Oh! Look! It’s me little leprechauns come to see Jesus!”

We loved that Lucky Charms priest.  
As he disappeared into the green tile environment of the hospital to do rounds, Dad always gave me the keys to the car so I could “be in charge” and listen to the radio until he came back.  My brother and I would start off fairly calm in the car waiting patiently, since we were still in a “state of grace” from Mass.  (No, actually our blood sugar was hitting rock bottom from the fasting so we were hot, weak and dizzy.  Even though Jesus was in my stomach redecorating my little soul, I was working up the meanness anyway.) 
I wanted to listen to Rick Shaw on 106.7 because he played beach music and that’s where I was headed that day once I peeled my jumper and shoes off.  My brother wanted to listen to anything other than what I wanted to listen to, so he started jabbing his fat little finger at the radio mashing the buttons changing the channel just to infuriate me. 
“My turn!” he would shout in that little boy voice.
(Click! Cuban big band music…)
“Dad gave me the keys, I’m the boss!”

 (Click!  “Yer makin’ me Dizzy!  My head is spinnin’…)
“You’re not the boss of me!”

(Click!  And now the news:  President  Johnson signed civil rights legislation…)
“Oh yes I am, and I get to listen to what I want!”

(Click! “Love grows where my Rosemary goes…”)
Then he brought out the big guns:  The White Buck Shoes with the Orange Soles.  He twisted his little chubby seersucker shorts-clad butt around and began delivering a hail of efficiently well-aimed kicks with those infernal shoes.  To my shins, my chest, gasp! my incubating boobs! and my butt which I had turned toward him as a shield.  Scuffs of orange stained my blouse and stormclouds of bruises were coagulating on my arms and legs.
“Stop!  Stop!”

“Make me!”

“Cut it out, you little FUCKER!”

And that’s when his eyes glinted, he went still, and the chiclet teeth shown in an evil little perma-grin.  I was toast.
Dad jumped into the car with the airy energy of a guy who knew his day was going to be all kinds of swell with football games on TV, puttering in the yard, and maybe a nice bourbon and soda for happy hour.  My brother turned to him with puppy dog eyes and a look of pure baffled cherubic curiosity on his chubby little face.  Ignoring my impassioned pantomime to zip it, he asked this pivotal, and might I say the most masterful question in the universe of sibling passive aggressive assaults:
“Daddy, what is a fucker?”  

I saw my Dad just deflate.  His whole day  blew away like so many dandelion seeds.
“Where did you hear that bad word?”

His little fat radio tuner finger rose up and pointed directly at me. 
“She called me a little fucker!”

I had to think fast.  I didn’t know what plausible deniability was at that time, but I went for it like a natural. I willed my face into the incredulous how-could-he-say-that-face, looked him square in the eye and said:
“I DID NOT!  I would never say that!”

“She did, she DID, SHE DID!” 

My brother was red faced and fighting hard now.

Dad, without taking his eyes from mine, not a blink, said:  “Well, son, she says she didn’t.  So we have to believe she didn’t.  Maybe you misheard her.  Let’s go home.”

My brother ranted and raved the whole 3 minute drive home and then sulked in his room the rest of the day. 

But Dad was not done yet.
No, Dad knew this day was coming and a mere spanking wasn’t anywhere near effective enough to curb the oncoming tidal wave of bad language.  He had prepared the ultimate scorched-earth of emotional psychological ops strategies to tackle what he knew his headstrong defiant daughter would gleefully perpetuate for the rest of her life if he didn’t nip it now.  If he botched this one, who knows where it would go?  I could’ve become one of those hippy people uttering strange things about free love and pot and LSD and…Well, the orchestrated take down was executed with relentlessness.
Over lunch he asked me, “Did you call your brother a little fucker?”
“NO, I did NOT.”

At halftime he asked me:  “Did you call your brother a little…?”
“NO!  I didn’t.”

In the yard at the frangipani tree he was trimming he asked:  “Did you call your brother a …?”
“No, Dad…”

At the end of the day, with his bourbon cocktail he asked me:  “Did you call him that?”

He wore me right down.  I was a quivering pudding of abject defeat. Broken.

With bottom lip trembling and resigned to the punishment I knew was coming, I said in a squeak –

“Yes I did, Dad.”
With that, Dad sat me down as he left the room to retrieve the "persuader" as Mom called it...The belt.  I made a pact with myself that I would not cry no matter what.

As he came back into the room, he brought out instead the pink album of pictures that chronicled my life from birth, My Baby Book, and began flipping through it.  In the most effective example of child discipline ever, Dad said: 

“Never did I think that pink little bundle I brought home from the hospital all those years ago would ever say a word like that, especially right after Mass, and then lie about it.” 
I had won the trifecta of damnable behavior with one short utterance. No spanking.  Just the worst feeling I had ever felt in my short little life.

The disappointment of my Father. 
Jesus in my stomach shrugged and sighed.
And for about 10 years after, that word almost never came out of my mouth. 
Well, only sometimes. 
When really provoked, you know? 
I had to really have a reason to…
Ok, fuck it, I said it!  Sorry Dad. 
Sorry Jesus.


  1. Dear Linnnn,
    My gosh does this bring the whole thing back.
    No breakfast, and then everyone staring with disapproval when your stomach growled in church.

    Catholicism has some damn way to go.

    Take care,
    Ann T.

  2. MY dearest Linnn,,,

    Father “Machine Gun” Kelly

    I started giggling there.. then I laughed under my breath.. then I laughed out loud...and then..

    FUCK IT.. I spit tea on the lap top..

    this is really really funny... because it could be any one of us.... and it's so true..

  3. Linnn,
    I laughed so hard at your incubating boobs that I could not recover for minutes. COULD NOT RECOVER! Oh thank you for that story... and thank you SO much for the laugh...

    I was SDA. I would have gotten to stay home too.

  4. Clearly you should have gone to the Lutheran church with Mom.

  5. My God...

    Is there a "Post of the Year" Award?

    This is GREAT! This is FABULOUS!! WOW!!!


  6. Red Shoes lured me over here with his recommendation and your post is fabulous!

    I wish I could write about all the stuff I did to my sister and she did to me. Believe me, Baptists were equally as "interesting"!

  7. Hey nice blog,
    Stalked, I mean linked from Mrs. Bunker's place. Looks like we have alot in common, umm except for that whole Hitler Youth thing...

    Frank "my Friends call me Ramrod" Drackman.

  8. Your brother sounds just like mine did. Ha! Great post. I, like Charlene saw Red Shoes, have to read this post. Glad I did. In this particular situation, I see whatever your religion is this happens to us all.

  9. WOW, so glad I stumbled here...what a great post...kinda reminded me of my childhood with my sister.

  10. Anne: The "old days" were a hoot, weren't they. Thank you for reading!

    Queen! (curtsey) When you spit all over your keyboard. my work here is done! Love your stuff as well.

  11. Scotty - I hope I am not responsible for you having to be resusitated, unless the EMT is hunky.

    Edith - Yes! They got to drink grape juice and skip it altogether if they wanted to...

  12. Red Shoes - YOU ARE MY HERO! Thank you for your amazing endorsement on your site. A bunch of new friends have stopped in and I appreciate it!

    Charlene - Ooooh! Write about it and we'll compare notes.

  13. Frank - Not that there is anything wrong with being blonde and wearing matching clothes...That was a wicked funny comment!

    Whatever - Oh for sure! We're all more similiar than we think.

    Urban Cowboy - Well, ride on into the ranch anytime, cowpoke. Damn glad to meet ya!

  14. Hey sunshine... where are you? How are you?? I know you are writing at another site, but I have misplaced the addy... let me know where you are...

    Just thinking of you...


  15. I STILL think this is one of the best posts ever!!!



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