Things You Never Wanted to Know About Your Father

My father and I recently had a conversation that made me barf into my mouth a little. It was about sex. About his feelings regarding sex. It’s been about a year since my mom died and dad has begun to dip his toe into the dating world. Or rather, he has begun to skinny dip his body into the dating world. It’s a weird situation. I want him to be happy, I want him to have companionship and to have his, um, needs met. But I don’t know if I want to hear about it.

My family has never been one to hold back on details of anything. Not that I talked to my parents about the details of their sex life, but my dad would always be super excited to go away for long weekends with my mom. When they would return he would crow across the dinner table, “We had sex in every city!” My brother and I would cover our ears and yell, “ARG, NO!”

My dad is an interesting fellow. He is an engineer. He has an MBA from Wharton. He was in the military. And he sometimes has the maturity level of a zit-faced sixteen year old. He can also be pee-your-pants funny and very kind (when not unwitting stepping on someone’s toes due to his quirky sense of humor). He has many friends, plays hearts and bridge, and has a weekly poker game with a bunch of 90 year men at a local nursing home. I love him dearly.

During my childhood I remember my dad leaving for work before the sun was up, and returning for dinner every night at 6:30 on the dot. We all ate dinner together. I don’t have many other memories of him other than sitting on his lap and learning how to count change, fighting over math problems, and his helping me write my Bat Mitzvah speech (which, the rabbi said, was legendary). Basically, my mom ran the show at home. And I was a big time mama’s girl. Most of my childhood memories revolve around my mom, my grandmother, and fighting with my brother. My father was always present, but more as side-kick to my mom.

When the time came that my mom required in-home hospice care after a long battle with breast cancer, my father and I were suddenly thrust into a new relationship with each other. I had the unique opportunity to get to know him on a much more intimate level. I saw what a marriage is in the truest sense. I saw my dad’s tender side, his vulnerable side, his stressed out side. I saw him as a real man, a real person, not just that one-dimensional guy in a suit who sat down to dinner every night at 6:30.

Since my mom’s death, I’ve been hanging out with my dad more often. I’m watching him make his way in the world without his rudder of 48 years. Like I said, he’s dating. He’s often like an excited, love-struck boy. This is where the vomit in the mouth part happens. He is an over-sharer. On one hand, I sort of like hearing about my dad’s exploits because I want to be someone he can talk to and I like that he talks to me. But I also sort of hate hearing about his dating life because, obviously, he is my dad. I mean, it’s awkward, right?

This all leads to the greater question: How do you relate to your parents/or parent now that you are an adult? Have you transitioned into more of a friendship relationship, or does your parent still hold a strictly “parental” role? And, for goodness sake, how much do you know about your parent’s love life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

F*ckYouVeryMuch, or Why Retail Jobs Blow

“Do you have that book? You know, it was reviewed on NPR a few weeks ago. I think it has a blue cover. Not dark blue, more of a sky blue. There’s an image on the cover of an, um, elephant? Or maybe it’s not an elephant, maybe it’s something that looks like an elephant…I’m not sure what it’s about, but it sounded interesting. Do you have it?”

I love my job. I am thrilled to have a job. I’m around books! What could be better? I like helping people. I like shelving, sorting, organizing, and setting up for events. I enjoy meeting writers, avid readers, the occasional insane person, and most of all I love my coworkers. And, I’m around books!

There is one thing, however, that totally perplexes me about working in retail. It is the strange thing that comes over some people when they enter a retail environment. It’s as if they are suddenly on stage and performing A Display Of Obnoxious Behavior in Three Acts.

I’ll start with Ms. Loud Cell Phone Talker. She is the one who walks around the bookstore chatting away on her cell phone. She appears not to care that other people are browsing quietly. She appears not to see other people around her at all. She is likely to be discussing her children. Or how bad the strawberries tasted this year. This is the person who won’t put down the cell phone to complete her transaction. She continues a long inane discussion with whomever is on the other end of the line while throwing bills and change at me. Then, just as I hand her the bag she hangs up the phone and begins to ask a succession of complicated questions, completely unaware of the group of customers lined up behind her.

Next up is Mr. I Am Much Smarter Than You/Mr. Stump the Bookseller. He’s the one who comes up to the counter with a smug look and says, “I bet you haven’t heard of that book by Yale University Press about explorers of the Nile?” He’s the one who then launches into a dissertation about Lake Tanganyika and the kingdoms of Buganda and Bunyoro and how your little bookstore couldn’t possibly have such a book. When questioned, he won’t know the author of the book. He will think it was published sometime in the last five years.

Then there’s Mrs. You’ve Disappointed Me Already. She comes up to the counter with a chip on her shoulder before you’ve even made eye contact. She has lost her coupon and believes it is your fault that she can’t be responsible for her own shit. She demands, loudly, that you make an exception for her because she is a very loyal customer and comes in every Saturday and has for the last twenty-one years. She insists that you are holding a book for her, but it will not be there. She will claim that some incompetent person put it back on the shelf.

Let’s not forget The Annoying Parent. He is the guy who allows his child to come behind the counter and play with scissors. He is the one who allows his child to pull twenty-five books off the shelf and leaves them scattered around the children’s section. He may say, “Thelonius, please don’t dooooo thaaaat,” in a whiny voice, but won’t move from his chair to stop the child from running up and down the aisles of the bookstore while yelling, “Fart booger booger booger poop fart booger booger poop!”

And finally, the always special, Mrs. You Are My Servant While I Am In This Store. She is the one who comes up to the counter with demands. She wants you to escort her around the store for twenty minutes of “suggestions.” Only she doesn’t really want your suggestions, she wants to shoot down your suggestions. She is the one who never makes eye contact, never says please or thank you, and inspires you to imagine a name tag that says: Hello, I Am Not A Robot.

So, as the holidays approach, I invite you to share your customer service tale of woe, and if you don’t have a tale to share, just remember, be nice to the people across the counter. F*ckYouVeryMuch and have a great day!

The Third Child

Yesterday I realized that my two-year-old Theo has truly turned the corner and is now a legit No-MINE-No-No-Mine-NO-No-NO! two-year old. Perhaps it is because he is our third child and I’ve been sufficiently beaten down by his older siblings that I find his new attempts to assert himself pretty darn hilarious. For instance, Theo believes he is in charge of our pug, Ozzie. Theo insists on walking ahead of Ozzie while yelling “Me first!” He commands Ozzie to, “Go potty, go potty, go potty” as Ozzie is in the process of urinating or pooping. And, Theo loves to run around the house with a chicken nugget held snuggly in his chubby little hand so that Ozzie will chase him. Luckily Ozzie has relinquished any alpha male tendencies in the hopes that a few bits of soggy chicken nugget might fall in Theo’s wake.

There are many times, of course, when Theo is holding up the tiny deadlines in my head, that I have the passing thought that he is torturing me. This happens when he decides that he would like to sit on the potty (for a long time) just as we are trying to leave the house. (He’s not potty trained. He likes to sit on the potty and grunt. He likes to sit on the potty and read. He likes to stick his hands in the toilet water if I step away. And he likes to throw books in the potty.) The thought that, hey, maybe this kid is a real jackass occurs when we are trying to rush to the bus stop and he refuses a jacket, or shoes, or socks. It occurs when he hides the computer mouse. And the remote. But then he’ll do something adorable like fist bump every kid at the bus stop (even Ozzie), or imitate one of the big kids reading a book, or give my husband one of those choke-you-to-death neck hugs that is oh, so sweet, and I think hey, this kid is pretty great and this guy is a keeper and I’m so glad we had a third kid. So, for today, he’s safe with me. We’ll see what happens when he wakes up from his nap!