Tag Archives: Parents

Fear And Loathing In Fatherhood

Fear And Loathing In Fatherhood

Fatherhood.

I know less about fatherhood than I know about….well….motherhood. And I know next to nothing about motherhood.

Don’t tell my kids.

But, it’s Father’s Day so it seems that something needs to be said about those stalwart men out there.  These co-creators of our offspring who, despite conflicting DNA urges to run screaming from the village encampment, are now expected to bond, relate, nurture and practically breast feed the little darlings.

So here’s to the dudes out there who are trying really hard to pony up in this brave new world of fatherhood.

I’ve actually pondered (because that’s what I do…ponder) how much the role of father has changed and how quickly.

Now, I’m no spring chicken (and I’ve never understood what that meant anyway) but it seems to me there has been a pretty drastic change in the expectations put on dads since I was, well, a spring chicken.

Why, back in my day, fathers were rarely seen and often heard. And if you heard one, you ran away and hid because you were in a world of trouble.

Dads were put on earth to teach you things.

See, son, this is the peritoneum….

See, son, this is the peritoneum….

Important things, like:

  • The difference between a flat-head and Phillips screw driver
  • How to tie a solid knot
  • The correct way to gut a fish
  • The exceptionally high cost of water because Jesus Christ how long can it take to wash your privates and get the hell out???
  • If you’re a boy, having the MOST UNCOMFORTABLE AND POTENTIALLY LIFE-ALTERING discussion about sex in the history of discussions about sex or anything else for that matter
  • If you’re a girl, absolutely no discussion about anything. Ever. EVER. ASK YOUR MOTHER
  • The exceptionally high cost of electricity because what the hell are you doing that requires so much God damned light? Reading? Light a candle!
  • The fact that the odometer in a car does not change if the wheels don’t turn. A rather painful lesson when you’ve gone on a joy ride when your folks were in Florida on vacation and you did NOT know they wrote down the mileage and you said you just started it so it wouldn’t get too cold and you thought that was good for cars and no I didn’t actually drive away in it and, wait, what was the question?
  • How to eat a meal without letting your teeth hit the fork because that drives them insane….as a people
  • How to bait a hook without puking

And, they gave these straight-forward life lessons as impatiently and with a level of irritation normally reserved for much more heinous violations. Like terrorist attacks.

The biggest gift here though is bestowing upon us the opportunity to recount these lessons while impersonating them at every Christmas gathering for the rest of our lives.

Modern fathers still need to do all of the above. After all, I still know how to gut a fish, even if I don’t do it all that often.

(Though I have been sorely tempted on more than one occasion to reenact the fish gutting scene from Office Space. If I ever do, I will have my father to thank for the precise way in which I gut aforementioned fish.)

He’s actually not doing it right….

He’s actually not doing it right….

But, in addition to these lessons, they are now expected to look their kids in the eye in order to give them their full attention. They are expected to listen to their weird little stories that really don’t end up with a point. They have to at least pretend to laugh at their jokes that make absolutely no sense, have no comedic timing and an utter lack of irony.

So, hat’s off to you, modern day Dads.

Champions of childhood.

Protector of our prodigy.

Subjugator of our spawn.

We lift our collective glasses of chilled Chardonnay to you. Please keep teaching them weird stuff that would never even occur to a Mom (myself included).

And continue to bestow upon many generations the gift of mocking you at family functions. That gift alone is priceless.

Letter To My Pre-kid Self

Letter To My Pre-kid Self

Dear Pre-kid Irene,

Hello sweetie! How are you doing? Right about now you’ve just gotten back from a month travelling around Thailand. And it was an awesome trip, right? But, for some reason, with all the travel you’ve gotten to do, this time you came home feeling a little less fulfilled than you usually do.

Now, I’m not going to tell you exactly what happens next because that would just be shitty. It would be like telling you the end of a movie, reading the last page of a book or letting you know that, as awesome as it looks in the trailer, the 2014 version of Godzilla is actually a little disappointing.

What I will tell you, is that you will be a mother one day. And, believe me on this, you are not in the least bit prepared. But, have faith, because no one is so at least you are not in the remedial class alone.

So, my independent girl who is swathed in a light of freedom that you are not taking nearly enough advantage of, let me tell you just a couple of things.

  1. Being pregnant is the scariest thing on the planet. It’s also pretty cool. But mostly it’s just scary because the bigger you get the more impossible it seems to get that thing out of you without dying.
  2. Don’t listen to your husband when he tells you shit about delivery he has absolutely no clue about. “Oh, the human body shuts all other functions down when it gives birth.” Really Mr. Science? Needless to say that is utter crap and you need to know that terrible stuff will happen in front of complete strangers. You do not have to apologize as much as you do when that time comes
  3. When you do have to get the giant bulge out, you do not actually die. There are moments when you wish you could, but you don’t.
  4. You will hallucinate due to lack of sleep. Just enjoy the ride and pretend you just took mushrooms like that time when you were camping and you saw Nixon’s face in that leaf. Don’t question, just go with it.
  5. Parenting is like getting a bikini wax. It’s excruciating when it happens, sending you into a sweaty fight or flight reaction that can, in some instances, result in the punching of a Russian esthetician (sorry Svetlana). But, after it’s over and all the irritation subsides, it’s pretty awesome.
  6. You will feel like a giant fish-out-of-water when you are around other parents and be under the mistaken impression that everyone has this parenting thing down except for you. Listen to this absolute truth: 99% of the other mothers are either on Prozac, drunk, or looking to get their hands on any mood-altering substance to survive this. The 1% who make the rest of us feel like shit are all assholes and you don’t want to party with them. You will be buying drugs from their kids one day.
  7. Speaking of partying….all that blow you did in the 80’s will actually serve you well once they hit puberty. I suspect our sense of smell is not as keen as it was before those years in San Francisco and that will literally save your life as it should dull the assault on that sense.
  8. Everything will go excruciatingly slow and way too fast at the same time. It must be some weird parental worm hole or a tear in the space/time continuum because it makes no sense, I know. But you’ll feel like you are swimming in Jello during the tougher times and then the nuggets of amazing times will fly by in a blur. I have no idea how to fix this. Just thought I’d let you know.
  9. Believe it or not, you actually end up not sucking as a mom. And, not sucking is pretty high praise when dealing with such an impossible task so take the not sucking and wear it like a badge of honor.
  10. Don’t let your responsibilities define you. You are more than your kids. You are more than your aging parents. You are more than your financial limitations. Do not lose yourself in the often overwhelming weight of what you are on the hook for. If you ignore all of the above, please remember this.

And with that, I send you on your merry, innocent way.

Oh, one last thing. A little later in the year, on September 11th, some terrible things are going to happen. The world survives and so do you.

Much love,

Irene the Elder

2013: An Awkward Death

2013: An Awkward Death

I am, admittedly, slow on the uptake for writing about 2013. After all, 2013 was so last month!

I’m going to blame it on my blinding anticipation of the new season of Downton Abbey. Damned Brits.

So, what can I say about 2013? It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was a year of weirdness, it was a year of boredom, it was a time of unsightly rashes and a time of emotional outbursts.

Does it seem to anyone other than me that 2013 has had the longest death scene ever? Haven’t we been trying to wrap this year up since about June?

The long, awkward death rattle of 2013

turkish2

So, here are a few of the oddities, in a vast sea of weirdness, from the year that made me tilt my head and say “Whaaaa???”

Zygote Infamy

Imagine having a lifetime supply of fame before you even develop limbs. Then imagine eventually being born to some of these parents.

  • We have yet more Kardashian blood on our hands now with the arrival of North West, who will most likely be bi-polar before hitting kindergarten.
  • His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge selfishly took all the focus off of the final season of Breaking Bad by being born.
  • This created…something:

Wiz Khalifa, Amber Rose

  • But, to balance that, so did this:

Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard

  • Brad and Angelina did NOT have (or go get) any more children this year.

Dennis Rodman’s Love Affair

Celebrity couples are just like us!

Dennis Rodman, Kim Jung Il

They show their love in public.

They laugh together!

They laugh together!

They have serious discussions about stuff!

They have serious discussions about stuff!

They clap!!

They clap!!

Same Sex Marriage

A tip o’ the hat to California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia.

These states legalized same-sex marriage, thereby ensuring they will all be better pressed, accessorized and smell of lavender.

And, a wag of the finger at the rest of you states. You can all continue to wallow in the stench of backward thinking and fear while living in your trailers that lack tasteful yet vibrant throw pillows. No pop of color for you!

Paula Deen

Paula Deen loses endorsements due to stupid racist remarks = $12.5 Million

The sustained consumption of salt, butter and bacon causes obesity and diabetes = $450 Billion

A Spike Lee/Jaime Oliver/Paula Deen Fight Club session = Priceless

Paula Deen

Spike Lee

Jamie Oliver

God’s Bouncer

Mario Jorge Bergoglio, (ex-bouncer, chemist and janitor) dares to be the bad boy James Dean of Vatican City with his crazy ideas of relieving poverty rather than focusing on old news like homosexuality, premarital sex and abortion. What are you, some kinda Christian?

This kid's the pope!

This kid’s the pope!

Don’t get me wrong – My membership card expired many years ago. I mean, I am a thinking human with ovaries who birthed two males of alter boy age, all of which are cause for concern in the Catholic Club.

This Guy

Shut your pie hole. Really.

Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson

So, in closing, I bid 2013 a tardy adieu and good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you in that freaky ass on the way out.

 

On Becoming A Mid-Life Orphan

On Becoming A Mid-Life Orphan

If all goes as it should, we all end up being orphaned at some point in our lives. If we don’t, our parents have outlived us and that either means you have died a tragic and early death, or you are the offspring of vampires. And everyone knows vampires can’t procreate so…..

Just because we may see the total logic in this sequence of events doesn’t mean it isn’t a huge mind-fuck.

Whether you have a healthy or therapist-inducing relationship with your parents (I suspect the latter is much more rampant….and interesting), no matter what age we are, we rely on having our parents on earth and kicking.

They are a touchstone to where we are in relation to death and the natural pecking order.

They are also the keepers of our personal history in a way that siblings and friends are not.

Having just entered orphan-hood myself, I’m still navigating the sans parents world. I suspect I will settle into it. Right now, however, I can’t stop the loop of a cockney accent asking for another bowl of porridge that keeps running through my head.

I think I’ve been watching way too much PBS.

This transition was made even stranger this past week when I was in Minnesota for my mother’s memorial service. After the very touching and lovely tribute, my sisters and I decided we’d check out our childhood house.

I had not been back since I was 10 years old.

The real shocker was that not a whole lot had changed. The house was still there, well-kept, familiar and much smaller than I remember.

As we stood around outside the house, no doubt looking like the most inept and best dressed thieves ever, a nice, young Midwestern man came out to start to mow our….his….lawn.

We let him know that we were not some sort of middle-aged organized crime ring (though I may have to start one of those) but that we had grown up in his house. Like all Midwesterners, he was exceptionally friendly and warm.

But here’s the crazy kicker. He asked us what our last name was and when we told him, he smiled widely and told us he had something for us.

He ran into his garage and came back moments later with a tarnished brass door knocker with the name “A.J. Barnett, MD” inscribed on the face.

We were the original owners of the house and this knocker hung on our front door, identifying the town doctor and intimidating every boy who came to take my sisters out on a date. And, 40 years later, it was kept and passed on from owner to owner until this nice father could give it back to us.

I couldn’t help but picture my parents hanging that knocker on the door of their new home, my Mom pregnant with me, her sixth (yes, I said SIXTH!!!) child, my father thinking about opening the doors of his new private practice in this rural outpost.

They would live in that house for over a decade, struggle with raising a hoard of kids, mend broken bones and broken hearts, struggle with starting and keeping a medical practice going, make lasting friendships and build many memories for us.

They were very much like me….except the six kids. I’m not insane after all!

 What the hell, Irish Catholics? Keep it zipped up why don’t ya!!

As I walked around my old back yard and watched my kids standing by the river that I played endless hours in, my new status of orphan didn’t feel so bad after all.

Man, I loved that sweater! I was pretty fond of that dog too.

Though I still have a real hankering for porridge.

The Five Stages of Summer Grief

The Five Stages of Summer Grief

image1

Every year around mid-May I start to get the same feeling I did when I was young. Summer is coming!! Summer is coming!!

Summer has always been a sun-kissed, dreamy time of beaches, lakes, boats, booze and making out with strangers on various docks. Nirvana!!

But now? Oh, my how the times they have a’ changed.

I suddenly remember that I don’t really get a summer anymore and I begin my annual “Stages of Summer Grief” process.

You see, now that I’m an exceptionally reluctant grown-up, a work day is a work day is a work day. Only the temperature in my office and the clothes I wear seem to change. But, my psyche still fucks with me and for a few brief moments, I imagine that the next 12 weeks or so will be a cavalcade of extreme fun and freedom.

Then those moments abruptly stop and the process begins.

1. Denial – This first stage is a doozy. It’s when I still feel a sense of optimism about this summer being different. Hey, it’s mid-May, I can lose 15 pounds and get a rock hard six-pack by June 1!! Sure I can!! Then I’ll go buy a little bikini just like the one I wore when I was 21. So what if I had twins! So did J. Lo and she can still rock it!

2. Anger – Now comes the rage. After two weeks of binge eating and goal-avoidance, it’s now end of June and not only did I gain 5 more pounds, I haven’t gone near any kind of bathing suit. Or mirror.

Yes, this one will do quite nicely, thank you.

Yes, this one will do quite nicely, thank you.

Along with this epic failure comes the end of school year blitzkrieg of potlucks, celebrations, after parties and parental guilt. I feel fortunate to have escaped with only one bout of food poisoning and an eye twitch.

And, now the kids are home and driving me to the brink of insanity.

“I’m bored!”

“I’m hungry!”

“Mommy, why are you drinking wine with breakfast?”

The good news here is that the eye twitch is really an effective addition to my look of maniacal rage that stops them in their tracks. Turns out they do have a survival instinct after all.

3. Bargaining – The idea of deal-making starts up right around the 4th of July holiday. What is more representative of the good ole’ summertime than bad food, fart-inducing beer and blowing a few fingers off with illegal explosives? All in the name of patriotism.

This is when I tell myself that the 4th is the REAL start of summer. So, all my previous June failings really don’t count, right? And, on the 5th of July, after the high-sodium hotdog and beer has left my body in whatever form God intended, THEN and only then will I REALLY start to prepare for my summer of amazing fun.

I will make summertime my bitch!!

4. Depression – With the first of August comes the realization that we are staring straight into the abyss of Fall. August is really the Sunday of summer. You want to enjoy it but Monday morning is looming.

All attempts to harness that sunny optimism, to join in numerous games of beach volleyball, to frolic carelessly in the surf have been reduced to middle-aged, tummy slimming bathing suits that are so tight you feel like any oxygen flow has, thankfully, been cut off to your head. Hey, at least it’s a buzz.

Get this woman a good waxing, stat!

Get this woman a good waxing, stat!

The kids are as ready to get back to school as you are to have them gone. The lethargy that comes with the dog days of summer has rendered you all a sweaty mess.

Ah, screw it!

Whatever!

Who cares!

5. Acceptance – The trigger for acceptance is receiving the supply list from school. It’s like watching the Western Union kid ride up to your house with eternally bad news.

Wipe that smile off your face you tiny harbinger of doom!

Wipe that smile off your face you tiny harbinger of doom!

Now it’s time to join the hordes of other frazzled parents (who also didn’t seem to have much of a summer) on the annual trek to Target for backpacks, pencils, T-squares and lunch boxes.

I’ve now accepted the fact that another summer has come and gone.  We are fast approaching Labor Day and the official end of summer.

Now there is a new excitement in the air.

Every year around late-August I start to get the same feeling I did when I was young. School is coming!! School is coming!!

The Amazing Viola De La Parra

The Amazing Viola De La Parra

 

Mom

Today my biggest supporter, my best friend, my mentor and the best woman I have ever known passed away peacefully at the age of 90.

I can never come close to thanking her enough for being the amazing mother she was to me. There will never be a day that I do not think of her, miss her and attempt to be the kind and loving person she was.

In honor of her, I am re-posting a Mother’s Day piece about my awesome Mom with a few additional facts:

Her family was from Chile and she was the only one born in the United States. New Jersey to be exact.

Her maiden name was Viola De La Parra.

She spoke Spanish first, French second and English was her third language.

She hated mayonaise.

She lost her father to pneumonia when she was 9 years old.

During the Depression, her mother opened up her home as a boarding house to make ends meet for her four children. Most of the boarders were traveling vaudevillians who would spend hours teaching my mom how to tap dance.

She met my father on a blind date.

She discovered she was a very gifted watercolorist when she was about 60 years old.

She believed in reincarnation. So, good thing the world will get to have her back again because we need more humans like her among us.

————————————————————————————————————————–

“An ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest”
– Spanish proverb

With Mother’s Day here, I feel compelled to write about the most influential person in my life – my mother. Her name is Viola and she just turned 89. She is in the final stages of dementia but continues to smile through it all like a champ.

If you think about it, dementia has its benefits. You can see the same movie or read the same book over and over and enjoy it just as much the first time as the tenth. And my stupid jokes and stories are always hilarious and fascinating no matter how many times I repeat them. So, in short, an 89-year-old with dementia is my perfect audience.

Here are some Viola-isms and Viola-facts:

“Always leave a bathroom cleaner than you found it or you’ll never be invited back.” To my knowledge, there are much bigger reasons to not invite me back to your home than this.

She has a terrible singing voice. She sounds just like Alfalfa from Little Rascals. It’s really quite disturbing.

Uncannily, she knew the moment I lost my virginity because I abruptly stopped talking about and asking questions about sex.

“Even the strongest man on earth cannot properly squeeze the water out of a sponge with one hand.” I have no idea how to prove or disprove this theory. But, she stated it with such conviction, I have to believe she has somehow witnessed this.

She taught me that to judge people was a waste of time. You wouldn’t judge a kindergartener for not acting like an MBA student so think about what “spiritual grade” a person might be in. (I am clearly in some sort of Special Education department.)

My mom always reminded me of Edith Bunker. Seemingly a bit ditzy on the outside but solid and smarter than everyone else in the room on the inside.

She graduated with a degree in Psychology with a minor in Latin Studies the same year I graduated from high school. She could psychoanalyze you in Spanish, thereby making you feel decidedly paranoid.

She regaled me and my friends at Mom’s Weekend in college about how terrific sex is after 50. The truth of this remains to be seen.

“I’ve taught my kids to be able to eat dinner with a king.” This skill has never been tested.

So, on Mother’s Day, I thank you, Vi, for being my biggest fan, my most honest critic, and my guide through the numerous missteps of my life with unwavering love and loyalty. I will always remember these things, even if you can’t anymore.

1:11 PM

1:11 PM


She traded it all for a silver kiss. A slow, smooth, cool, decadent kiss that reminded her of who she was.

She marked the time of the kiss, so simple and benign at first, at exactly 1:11PM. A time that, for some metaphysical, astrological or numerological reason, she was inextricably tied to.

Years later she would continue to be slightly obsessed by this time of day. If it was 1:09, she would stare at the time until it progressed to 1:11 and would feel a small outburst in the pit of her stomach. At 1:12, it would be gone.

On the first instance of 1:11, she was on a plane flying to attend her mother’s funeral.  She had always been exceptionally close to her mother, but in the past five years she had been swallowed slowly but steadily into the vacuum of dementia. She would have preferred to be able to say goodbye in a much more cinematic way with a last thank you to the woman who raised and loved her unconditionally, and her mother gifting her some final words of wisdom and love. But, they were destined to have the kind of farewell that slowly slid into oblivion without any real end point to refer back to over the years for some sort of solace. Her last lucid conversation with her mother went unchecked and, try as she might, she could not remember what it was or when it took place.

She felt  her own life had taken on some of the tone and color of dementia. The thread that connected her to her unique likes, dislikes, passions thinning to the point of breakage. She could only picture herself in a hazy, watery reflection, no longer in sharp focus.

This is what she was thinking of as she stared out over the fluffy marshmallow landscape outside her small window at 1:11 Mountain Standard Time.

Then, the second instance of 1:11. The kiss.

She was at a crossroads. Possibly the first of her life, or at least the first she took note of. She’d always been a person who winged it. Never a planner, just waited for the signs of what her next step should be by what crash landed at her feet at a particular moment. Then, she’d stop, say “What the hell?” and move into that direction. She lived her life as if she were in a maze of life choices. Hit a wall, turn right. Hit a wall, turn left. But, always keep moving.

WIth this new wall there didn’t seem to be any logical way to turn. She just kept moving against it like some kid’s wind-up toy.

Unbelievably, as she now stood in front of her husband, unsure of what to say, she allowed herself a glance at the clock.

1:11.

———————————————————————————————-

(Now, if you are so inclined, please go directly here: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/107-voting/ to read other great writers and vote for your favorites…hopefully mine being one of them!)

 

The Stay-At-Home Mom – Your Lady Balls Are Bigger Than Mine

The Stay-At-Home Mom – Your Lady Balls Are Bigger Than Mine
I’m tired just looking at you.

I’m tired just looking at you.

I’ve been asked repeatedly over the years about why I am a working mother. Are we poor? Am I a narcissist? Is your husband a drunk or something?

Of course, the answer to all of these queries is YES. I am a poor narcissist with a drunk husband. Duh!

But, there are actually a couple of other reasons too.

Like the fact that my kids love me a lot more when they see me a little less. This is an absolute fact about how most people feel about me. Ask any of my ex-boyfriends. You can get overwhelmed by me pretty damned fast. But, when I’m not around, I am thinner, prettier, wittier and smarter. So, I choose to keep that mystery alive for as long as I can.

This is also why I work remotely. It’s like that scene out of Hello Dolly when she goes back to the Harmonia Gardens every time I visit the home office.

This would be our casual Friday look.

This would be our casual Friday look.

And, that’s how it is every time I come back home too….for about an hour.

The simple fact is that when I’m at work, it’s the only time anyone listens to me (or pretends really well) and sometimes they even do what I say. I’ve even had times when someone asked me for my opinion on something and sat, in rapt attention, waiting for my response.

Needless to say, I don’t get a whole lot of that at home.

But, the absolute, number one reason I work is the fact that I am a big yellow-bellied coward. Being a stay-at-home mom is HARD! I’ve only done it a couple of times for like a week over a school break and was in the fetal position by hour 12.

I still have a loop of “I’m bored” and “I’m hungry” sing-songing through my brain like a bad Michael McDonald song.

Ya Mo Be There…. Ya Mo Be pouring me a big ass drink about now.

Ya Mo Be There…. Ya Mo Be pouring me a big ass drink about now.

The idea that a human female becomes more patient and kind once they have children is as confusing to me as my kid’s math homework.

But, given that the children of most of my stay-at-home-mom friends are alive and seemingly healthy, I must assume I simply missed out on that hormone. Along with the hormone that makes you forget the pain of childbirth. Didn’t get any of that one either.

So, I salute you, my bad ass sisters! You have thrown yourself on the parental grenade and I stand in awe.

Confessions Of A Chronic Over-sharer

Confessions Of A Chronic Over-sharer

“Everyone is wise until he speaks.”
~ Said by someone who has self control

Let me explain. As if I have to….

I come from a thick-skinned, sarcastic clan of Irish hooligans with excessive body hair who are masters at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I’m the youngest of six kids, raised in a predominantly Irish Catholic family with a dose of Chilean for spice. Though, according to my father, the Irish DNA can kill any other DNA with just a pithy quote from Oscar Wilde.

We lived in the frozen tundra of Sartell, Minnesota in the ‘60s amongst a community of over-breeders. The entire town seemed to be populated by about eight families of fifteen kids each. My parents were barren in comparison.

I went to St. Francis of Xavier Elementary School and thought Richard Nixon was cute. I feel I need to share this shame to illustrate my compulsive need for constant and full disclosure. I also had a mad crush on Glen Campbell and Andy Williams. But that doesn’t feel nearly as shameful as the Nixon thing, hindsight being 20/20 and all. And, to answer your question, yes, I have odd taste in men.

So, you get the picture. As a typical youngest child, I do a lot of stupid stuff. It doesn’t help that I inherited my father’s inability to keep words and actions inside our brains from making awkward public appearances.

Like the time I pantomimed male masturbation in front of my family during a game of Cranium.  As they all looked at me with gaping mouths I knew it was not the most appropriate choice to have made. And yet this didn’t occur to me until I had already simulated self-love in front of my parents.

In case you are wondering, I was acting out Master and Commander and I did win the round.

I have a rich familial history of this sort of behavior. Just to clarify, I don’t mean the public masturbation but the lack of editing oneself. I come from a long line of proud Irish impulsivity. And my father was the clan leader.

I can just imagine the insensitive blurting that occurred during the Potato Famine. There is a good chance we were actually kicked out of Ireland and just told people it was because of our insatiable need for starchy root vegetables.

I was mortified at my wedding when he asked my ultra-athlete sister-in-law if she still menstruated. This is very logical and appropriate wedding conversation for those of us who are afflicted with this disease. However, normal people may find it a bit unsettling. I’m sure it was a fleeting curiosity in his head and when he opened his mouth to take a bite of poached salmon, it simply fell out.

I don’t think my father was trying to insult or shock, I just think he didn’t really give a damn how his comments landed. I suspect he’d always been like this in his life so I won’t attempt to blame it on the insensitivity of the elderly.

Since my mother does not suffer the same affliction, she tended to sit in stunned silence. So, lacking any real counter-balance in my life, I started my career at a young age.

An early example: My first confession.

We had a super groovy macramé and guitar priest named Father Kramer at our church who I thought was the next coming of Bobby Sherman. Being the super cool dude he was, he decided it was a much gentler experience for children to sit in his office rather than the confessional to unload our myriad criminal acts.

As I sat swinging my feet on his big red leather office chair, he asked me if I had any misdeeds I felt I should confess to him and, of course, The Big Guy. It just so happened that I had bitten my sister Julie’s finger the week before. I maintain to this day that if you don’t want to get bit by a shark you don’t shake chum in its face so she should have known much better than to put it within biting distance. I drew blood.

After telling Father K this story, he looked at me solemnly and shook his head.

“You know, Irene, there is never a call for violence. Do you think you made the right choice in this situation?”

Not a second passed before, out of my little mouth tumbled:

“Well, shit Father, no one is perfect.”

My memory goes dark at this point either because I was literally smitten down by the very hand of God or all the drugs I’ve done subsequently have simply erased it. Either way, I do not recall getting punished for saying this so it only fed my belief that I was not in the wrong. This, in turn, helped to mold me into the solid overly honest and awkward adult I am today.

And I’m OK with that because, as we all know, no one is perfect.

I Hope They Don’t Serve Peanut Butter in Heaven

I Hope They Don’t Serve Peanut Butter in Heaven

I know I’m a little tardy on a Father’s Day tribute but I chose to write about porn last week instead so now a word about my Dad.

(By the way, I believe my father would not only support the porn decision but would have been surprised had I gone another route. And then he would have whacked me upside the head for being late because that’s very rude.)

My Dad seemed to be in a pretty crappy mood for a large portion of his life. Or, at least the portion of his life when I knew him. I try not to take that too personally though. He was Irish and that can tend to explain all sorts of things. And he was raised by the Christian Brother’s Catholic Church in New York City during the Depression and, since he only had peanut butter and bread to eat for long periods of time, he most likely had scurvy….which would explain everything that the Irish part didn’t.

I began to grasp the real reason he was so cranky in the past several years since I had kids. He and my mother produced six offspring.  I never did get them to fess up about their reason for this terrible lack of judgment. Did they actually intend to have six or was it the no-birth-control Catholicism? Either one paints them as lunatics.

When my father passed away 7 years ago, no one was especially surprised. For one thing, he was 84 years old so not exactly taken down in the prime of his life. Also, he was supposed to have died several times prior to this and didn’t, I believe, so that he could keep us slightly off kilter and nervous at all times.

My father’s wishes were to be cremated so me, my sisters and my mother found ourselves in a hushed conference room with soothing colors and quiet background music at the funeral home discussing the receptacle we would pour Dad into for his final burial. My father was a very no-frills, pragmatic man so an ornate urn was out of the question upon risk of being haunted for the rest of our lives with a litany of ghost rantings about wasteful behavior.

As you’d expect, we were all quite tired and punchy from emotion and worry about our mother and how she was going to fare through all this so we weren’t thinking particularly straight. As the nice young funeral boy (I believe that’s on his business card) went somberly through the absurdly large catalog of options for housing ashes, we all started to get the giggles. I can’t quite remember what may have started it (I think it had something to do with “veteran” vs. “veterinarian”, him being the former and not the later) but pretty soon there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and not for the correct reason. Our barely contained hysteria went something like this:

“Let’s just put him in a velvet Crown Royal bag and call it a day.”

“Is there some way we could fashion him into a fishing lure?”

“I say we scatter him all over the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. Do we need a permit for that?”

The bad news is that we tend to be loud laughers and one does not normally expect to hear loud female cackling coming from a funeral home as if we were doing Jell-O shots at Senior Frog’s. We were gently escorted to the parking lot to avoid bothering the other, more appropriate mourners.  I don’t know if we were really 86’ed from a funeral home, but knowing how proud Dad would be if we were, it’s what I’m choosing to believe.

Here are some facts about my Dad:

He hated peanut butter

Used to have me believe he was a spy in the war and still had the recording devices and cameras embedded in his eyes and ears

Had a wicked, some would say cruel, sense of humor

Loved animals

He cheated at board games

Scared the shit out of us

Taught me how to skin and gut a trout

Smoked cherry-vanilla tobacco in his pipe

Hope you’re having a hoot, Dad, and they don’t serve peanut butter in heaven.