Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Last Litter

The only adult in my life who did not smoke was my dad, and he died of cancer when I was nine. I should mention that he was 74 at the time.

My memories of my dad are as odd as he was. I remember carrot juice, and goat’s milk. He ate sardines and kippers out of the cans, and then threw the cans out the kitchen window. Later, when he was sick, he drank Coca-Cola in bottles to help with nausea. He kept a dog named “Dreamy” that he called “Groovy” because he couldn’t remember her name. Dreamy used to chew up the sardine/kipper cans, leaving lumps of mangled metal in the yard.

He liked kids. From what I’ve gleaned, he’d been married several times and had had at least a couple of litters of kids before me and my brothers. I only ever met one of these half-siblings, and he had been older than my mother. At my dad’s funeral, there were dozens of adults in the “family” section of the church that I had never seen before and never saw again. My brothers and I were the only children. I wore my first communion dress. 

My dad owned two neighboring little square tract houses. I was told later that my dad had built all the houses in the neighborhood. I’m not sure if that means he was a builder, or helped finance the construction, or what. Questions about my father were never well-received, so I stopped asking. 

My dad also owned the empty lot on the other side of his house. The lot had trees and a giant bomb shelter taking up the back third of the lot. My dad had had the shelter built before any of us existed. He stored a half dozen motorcycles in it that we would ride around the lot. One of my brothers accidentally ran one up the side of the bomb shelter, leaving a surreal-looking tire track on the vertical cement wall. After that, my dad started taking us to more-open spaces to ride the motorcycles. Like the massive lot behind his restaurant.

It was a Bob’s Big Boy type of diner. After cheeseburgers and/or chocolate sundaes, my dad would open the silver door on the front of one of the pinball machines in the restaurant and give us all handfuls of quarters to play with.

I remember one time, the three of us were running around in the kitchen having a whipped-cream fight with one of the chefs. When I was older, someone told me that a restaurant reviewer had written a story on the place. The reviewer had basically said that the place would be fine if not for the owner’s kids running wild.

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