Thursday, May 25, 2006

Happy Memorial Day Weekend


This a lengthy one about my Dad, but you've got the entire 3-day weekend to read it. While you're at it, go read Chez Bez for another lovely tribute, and all around great blog.
*****
I never did, as an adult, get along well with my father. But, I used to acknowledge, "I'm more like him than I am my mother."

It is true. She has always been shy and quiet, and, as she ages, more and more fearful of just about everything. My parents' personalities complimented one another, as my father was boisterous and outgoing.

And demanding. He was King of His Castle, and we waited on him, and feared him, and obeyed him, and adored him. He was an old-fashioned guy where his family was concerned, too strict, with both wife and daughters. Married in 1960, theirs was a traditional, "obey your husband" marriage. My mother stayed at home, and waited on him hand and foot, as did my sister and I, when we were kids. "Bring me some tea!" "Change the channel!" (pre-remote)

But he was also smart enough to see the writing on the wall: My sister and I would not follow in our mother's footsteps. He knew this. He knew that we would grow up to work side by side with men, and we'd be harrassed and we'd be discriminated, and by God, he'd better toughen us up to get ready for it. Because we were HIS daughters. And we were just as good as they.

And toughen us up he did. Stop crying! Stop giggling! Don't act like this, don't act like that, you only get the respect you demand. Demand respect! Again, you only get the respect you demand!!!

He taught me well. What he hadn't anticipated, though, was that one day I would order him to "step off" and demand HIS respect. Or else.

Did he ever realize I turned out exactly as he'd honed me to? I don't know. He was incensed, most of the time, as was I...as we both, at the same time, unconsciously yearned for one another's acknowledgement: "you are an am amazing person."

We never did get around to telling each other that, and honestly, I can't imagine that either one of us would have given in by now, if he were still alive.
*****
We did a lot together, as a family. When I was 17 years old, we were sitting in the grandstands at our county fairgrounds, waiting for the demolition derby to start. Mom and Dad swanked us on either side, and apparently, while my sister and I yakked our teeny-bopper heads off, the boys behinds us began to get a little rowdy. I was completely oblivious, but suddenly shaken when my father, 6'3" and 350 lbs, stood up and bellowed, "Gentleman, I have a FAMILY sitting here."
The boys behind immediately calmed down and apologized. "Sorry, sir, sorry."

WHAT? Dad! What happened? What's going on?!

Apparently the "F-WORD" was being bandied about behind us, along with other words more terrible than "crap" and "fart," which also were not allowed in The Stewart Household.

I remember blushing to my ears, as I turned and made eye contact with the boy, probably 3 years my senior. He seemed more embarrassed than I, as I turned back around and kept my eyes front and center. We suddenly had nothing to do but wait for the derby to start.

*****
It's 25 years later. I'm no angel, and, when the time is right, can talk like a pirate. I like to think that I know when it's appropriate NOT to, and I often feel guilty after a carefree evening when I open up and let 'er rip. I'm more careful now, even with friends, than I once was, thanks to this conversation with a longtime friend:

"Lori, do you notice I never use the Lord's name in vain?"

"...can't say I've made a mental note of it. [long silence ensued]. Why? Do I?"

"All the time you do."

Those were his exact words, and I will NEVER forget them. I DO? ALL THE TIME I DO?!! Well, ALL the time I don't, but I guess I'd felt comfortable enough with him, a wild friend from high school (hi, tbr) that I'd had no idea he was bristling.

And I've tried to cut that out ever since. Because it's offensive to more people than you know, and not everyone has the courage to tell you to "zip it, honey." I'm even fearful now that I'll be inundated with emails and comments mocking my attempt. Might I have no idea?!

So...I try to watch it, but HEY...ya get together with the girlFRANDS, or someone cuts you off in traffic, or you forget to save before the power goes out, and sometimes...THANGS slip out.

I admit it. I'm sorry. I feel just awful.
****
(Section 4 of this tale is written with Ilaiy's permission)

A few weeks ago, when Mike was out of town, I dragged Marcy along to "Sunday Lunch with Mama." Ilaiy joined us also. Our same old mexican restaraunt, where the waiters say "HI MAMA!" and offer her shots of tequila while she giggles.

We were yakking and having a grand time, and Ilaiy slipped in A Federal Offense, in the eyes of God...and my mother. He has a bit of an Indian accent, so it comes out quickly, and pronounced sort of like "goat-dom." The first time I hear it, I tense, and hope it goes over my mother's head. But again with the goat-dom, ever so casually, and again...until I nearly had a heart attack, jumped across the table. Yes, I practically hissed at one of my best friends, "You MUST stop saying that in front of my mother!"

Wide-eyed he was, as I was when my father jumped the boyz behind me. He said, "I can't, Lori, it just comes out."

"You can and you will." And he did.

I'd forgotten about that day in the grandstands, but hit me like a ton of bricks before I even sat back down. My father was right behind me at that moment. I FELT him standing there.

He said, "OK. I give."

And I replied, "me too."

And we're ok now.

9 comments:

  1. This is a touching and intimate post. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I love this one, Lori. It was very touching. That last part...just killed me! And the picture is wonderful.

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  3. june in florida3:49 PM

    Lovely story Gng, so funny what little thing can jog long lost memories. I bet dads saying "about time'

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  4. There was a time, and sometimes still is, that I hate being told I am just like my father. Of course, I am usualy told that about my ... uh less desireable actions. On a side note: There is nothing wrong with expecting respect, or showing respect, or expecting others to show respect.

    Nice writing too, the way you write, I can always picture the scenes so vividly.

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  5. This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. this is a beautiful post. thanks for sharing.

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  7. Wonderful post. I read it twice today. Thanks so much for what you share.

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  8. Nice post. Very nice.

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