Tag Archives: Dad

If My Mom Ate An Apple In The Forest, I Would Hear It

Mom called me at work on Friday all excited about something she’d seen on Regis and Kelly.

“I know what’s wrong with you,” she said.

You see, I’m extremely sensitive to noises, like those made by people eating (and breathing if we’re being honest here). We’ve spent years thinking I was just an intolerant bitch, but as it turns out, I have a disorder (Misophonia)!

And Kelly Ripa has it too! Maybe we could get together and bond over our common affliction. We could throw a big party, use her fabulous Electrolux kitchen appliances to cook up a feast, then be forced to leave in a huff when the guests insisted on actually eating the food. Damn people and their infernal chewing!

For those of you who don’t suffer from Misophonia, let me describe it for you. I already made reference to it in this post. But I wrote that before my diagnosis.

My Dad was always the worst offender. The sound he made while chewing, which I always referred to snottily as “chomping,” was absolutely unbearable to me. Once I made such a fuss about it at Elby’s Big Boy, he stormed out of the restaurant and walked home. If he thought my Mom and I would stop eating our meal to go after him, he didn’t know us very well. I was a little afraid of what he might do when we got home, but mostly I was relieved to eat in peace.

According to my Mom, Kelly Ripa has to leave the room when her husband eats a peach. Honey, join the club. When my Mom eats apples, I could cheerfully kill her. She likes to cut them in quarters and savor each piece to maximize my torture, because she’s sweet like that. The sound of the crunching and the smacking rattles a nerve inside my brain. If I can’t leave the room, I fixate completely on the noise and pray for it to stop.

Sometimes she calls me while sucking on hard candy. I think she does this just to irritate me. She’ll be talking and all I can focus on is the sound of the sucking. When it’s my turn to speak, instead of responding to what she said, my response is usually, “What the hell are you eating?” And she’ll say, “fuck you.” The love runs deep.

Even my beloved husband is not immune to my Misophonic venom. He is the youngest of five boys and learned early that you eat quickly or you might not get enough food. I cannot reason this imprint out of him. I say, “there are only two of us and you’ve made enough food for six people!” But he is an eating machine. He often puts a new bite in his mouth before finishing his previous one. This creates a sound I can only compare to what I imagine it would sound like to swallow a live rat. Sometimes I have to wait to eat until he’s done so I can enjoy my dinner.

Once I knew I had a disorder, I looked it up on the internet. I knew I’d found my peeps when I read Lucy’s comment “It makes me sooooooo angry like I could shoot people in the face!” and laughed out loud. OMG, like me too! I was glad and somewhat disturbed to find so many others with this affliction. I was also glad Lucy mentioned she’s receiving therapy. Not surprisingly, not everyone found Lucy’s comment amusing. “Rugbyman,” who has a stepson with this affliction, apparently doesn’t think getting shot in the face is funny at all. Oh, dude! Don’t be so prickly, when we say we want to shoot you in the face, we are just kidding…sort of.

Why It is Important to Know Your Family Tree

When I answered our rotary phone, the voice on the other end of the line was unfamiliar. I didn’t want to tell him I was alone in the house.

But this guy was persistent. He peppered me with questions about my parents’ whereabouts, when I expected them back.

“Wait, who are you again?”

“I’m your cousin Joe.”

Yeah right, buddy.

My Mom was an only child. My Dad’s brother never married. I don’t have any cousins.

But Mom did. I quickly checked my mental list of Gram’s siblings and their children. And came up empty. Nope, no idea who this guy on the phone was. All I knew is he was creeping me out.

I can’t remember if I bothered to apologize first or if I just hung up. But I definitely hung up on “cousin” Joe. Then I checked the locks on all the doors and huddled up in a corner of the couch looking around in paranoia waiting for my parents to get home. At which time I told them the story about how a strange guy claiming to be cousin Joe called.

My Mom didn’t miss a beat, “Yeah, Joe…did he say why he was calling?”

Oh crap.

My grandfather died before I was born. I wasn’t very familiar with that side of Mom’s family. But there was most certainly a cousin Joe.

So Mom had to call her cousin Joe to explain that her daughter was a moron. She made me get on the phone to apologize. I muttered an apology, but Joe took care of most of the talking. He looked forward to meeting me…at his father’s funeral.

Shit, shit, shit.

He mentioned a spanking might be in order for hanging up on him. I would find out soon enough he was only kidding, but not knowing Joe at all (obviously), I worried about the possibility anyway. At best, I knew I would be teased mercilessly. I would be introduced to each and every long-lost family member as the girl who hung up on Joe. As I wrote in my diary, “UGH!!!!!!!!!!”

As if this funeral would not be special enough, my Dad was nowhere to be found that morning. As much as we wished he had just skipped town, we all knew that wasn’t likely. We sat on the couch all dressed up and ready to go and worried he would make us late. Until he finally used his one phone call to let us know he was indisposed. “Say hi to Mom, from JAIL.”

We went to the funeral without Dad. Cousin Joe did not spank me. He did tell the story of my hanging up on him to anyone who would listen. I did shrink in horror, which of course triggered the obligatory game of “let’s tease the shy preteen girl for being shy” that well-meaning but overbearing family members inexplicably like to play.

But the day wasn’t about me and soon the teasing was over. Now I mostly remember this day as a glorious break from Dad. “Minus one,” Mom, my brother, and I felt a little lighter. We might have looked just a bit too happy to be at a funeral.

This post is in response to this week’s memoir prompt at the Red Dress Club.

Take us back to an embarrassing moment in your life.

Did someone embarrass you, your parents perhaps? Or did you bring it upon yourself?

Are you still embarrassed or can you laugh at it now?

The Most Time I’ve Spent On Father’s Day In 24 Years

I don’t celebrate Father’s Day. I have to remind Dave about dates, so he’s always late sending his Dad a card, because I never know when Father’s Day is until it’s here.

I’ve written about Dad a little bit here. Some people shocked me in comments by pointing out the obvious affection in these posts. But there’s also this. Since Mom and I moved out in 1987, Dad and I have been estranged. Before we moved out, I dreamed of being estranged. Life has turned out pretty well for me, I think because we are estranged.

One of my big projects this year has been to organize and digitize old photos. I spent countless (OK, about 40) hours alone in the dining room poring over the pictures. I had to decide which ones were good enough to digitize, carefully remove them from the albums, clean off the years of grime and fingerprints, and put them in chronological order.

This task dragged on for months, so I tried not to spend too much time really looking at the pictures and reminiscing since I knew I’d be able to do that after the pictures were digitized. But ignoring the nostalgic pull of the pictures proved impossible. Furthermore, I was overwhelmed by the photographic evidence of a bond between me and my Dad. A bond I guess I spent years denying because it made my life easier.

Here we are at my first birthday party. Apparently I was too young to adequately articulate I don’t like pink.

Here I am apparently slapping Dad in the face for fun. Here I am adorably grabbing for my birthday balloons.

On Dad’s lap at my second birthday party.

By my third birthday, I’d already graduated from Dad’s lap, but the look he’s giving me is still precious. And he’s also not wearing the same damn yellow shirt.

I noticed a big reduction in the number of pictures after my third birthday. I asked Mom about it, teasing her that documenting the second child’s life is less important. But Mom reminded me Dad lost his job around that time and she had to work full-time. She didn’t really have time for pictures after that, thank you very much.

So that’s when things really went down the shit hole. The family lore includes a tale of my trying on shoes when I was three. When Dad asked me how the shoes felt, I apparently responded by kicking him really hard in the shin. So I always thought my relationship with Dad was strained from an early age.

But these early pictures weren’t shocking. I don’t even remember these times and all young children go through a Daddy phase. The next picture really surprised me. This is my Gram on my Mom’s side, Dad, and me in my First Communion get up five years after the last picture. When I uncovered this one, I don’t know how long I sat staring at it in tears. I was in third grade. Clearly I already hated Dad by this point, right? Huh.

The next two pictures are from middle school. Dad and I spent several days after a big snowstorm building a complicated, three-room snow fort in the backyard. Let’s face it, Dad built a snow fort. The second picture I took from the hallway window on the second floor of our toasty house after I’d given up manual labor in the freezing cold. Dad kept working by himself to finish the fort.

I cried when I saw these pictures. I cried in part because I let myself feel bitterness at not having the kind of father all kids deserve. I was so relieved to be free of Dad at 14, that I never allowed myself to grieve being essentially fatherless. I also cried in part out of sadness for Dad, who clearly loved us but could not stop the destructive behavior that drove us away.

Unfortunately, this post doesn’t end with an emotional reconciliation. Dad’s not capable of having a relationship with me. The few times I’ve tried to reach out to him, he’s made me sorry I did. The last time was pretty recent and the freshness of it must have fueled my emotional response to these pictures.

I looked through the pictures a little with my Mom when she brought them down in March, but I could feel myself getting tearful, so I did most of it by myself. At one point while Mom and I flipped pages, I thought “Dad loved me.” But I must have said it out loud, because Mom’s surprised response was, “Of course he did.”


“Hankie, keys. Comb, wallet-ey…”

God, seriously?

“Dad, I’m going to be late for school.”

But my complaint doesn’t have the desired effect of stopping my Dad. He is compelled to start his ritual over again. Depending on how late we were and whether my brother was around to join in with me in interrupting him and making fun, I’d either be slightly amused by this compulsion or slightly annoyed. But I was always resigned, because Dad would not leave the house without doing the whole thing no matter how many interruptions he faced.

“Hankie, keys. Comb, wallet-ey,” starting over, he checks two of his pockets.

“Ring, watch,” while he checks to make sure his wedding band is where it always is, on his left ring finger, and watch, well I never know why he says this, since he doesn’t wear one.

“Nuttin’, nuttin’,” as he clarifies that his two always-empty pockets are indeed empty. I always wondered what would happen if he found something in one of his “nuttin’, nuttin'” pockets.

“Barn door’s locked,” as he makes sure his fly isn’t open.

And finally, “O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F, O-F-F,” as he individually checks each knob on the stove. I learn never to interrupt him this late in the ritual, because he would still have to start over and then you essentially have to wait for him to go through it twice.

Even though I don’t remember any instance of Dad uncovering something forgotten through this routine (maybe the occasional unzipped fly?), he had to do it anyway. Dad drove me to school every morning for years. I estimate I heard this at least a thousand times.

I haven’t heard Dad say this in almost 24 years, but I can still hear it. And picture myself, school-uniformed, arms crossed, tapping my foot by the back door in the kitchen waiting for the last “O-F-F.”


This week’s writing prompt was: “We want to know what, from your childhood, do you still know by heart?”

Rock The Vote

“My family and I saw your Dad with his campaign signs the other day,” one of my friends from school said to me one day.

And what a sight he must have been, I thought.

Embarrassment quickly flushed my face with a ruddy warmth.

“Oh my God,” I muttered. What else could I say?


My Dad spiraled down into a deep depression during his long unemployment. I remembered a time when I rushed to him when he got home from work asking him if he’d brought me anything. I loved office supplies and he would usually come through with some sort of fabulous-to-me gift, like a 4-color Bic pen or a regift of something one of his clients had given him.

I can understand better now the despair he must have felt to go from being the bread-winner and delighting his daughter with office trinkets every day to being unemployed. But Dad had let himself go, literally and figuratively, and at the time I only cared how it felt to me. Humiliating.

The unemployment rate was high, the job search was not fruitful. His resentment burned to a fiery anger. He started passing his time trying to cause trouble for those who had fired him, but that did not work out well.

Eventually he replaced these activities, as well as looking for work, with complaining about not having work and making our lives miserable. And the drinking, there was always the drinking.


Inexplicably, he became hopeful that life would improve…if only the incumbent were defeated in the upcoming election. He had bountiful free time to campaign. That poor, poor challenger…

Luckily, Dad’s favorite outfit matched his candidate’s campaign signs. This outfit also matched the color of my hot, flushed cheeks when my friend said she’d seen him.

You could not miss him.

He spent his days driving around the city with an enormous campaign sign mounted to the roof of our car. His campaign uniform was no different from the outfit he’d been wearing every day for God knows how long. He wore sweatpants, Converse sneakers, and a tee shirt that accentuated his beer belly so well that he probably looked like a tomato to my friend and her family.

Dad even created a campaign song for his candidate, which made me regret watching so much MTV in front of him. He changed the lyrics to the Cars “You Might Think,” which was a huge hit at the time.

You might think I’m loony, but all I want is (insert candidate’s name here).

To make this rhyme, Dad had to mispronounce the name. Dad sang this pretty much non-stop, whether out campaigning or at home. Even now, hearing this song makes me want to stab myself in the eardrums.

Annoying and embarrassing, but until my friend mentioned seeing Dad, I thought maybe I’d get through the election unscathed.

Fortunately, my friend wasn’t judging or teasing me. She thought my Dad was funny. All my friends did. When they came over, it was still early enough in the afternoon for the happy drunkenness, which they mistook (I hope) for simply happy.

There was never any doubt that the incumbent would crush Dad’s candidate, with or without Dad’s special brand of campaigning. At the time, I had trouble distinguishing whether these events were comedy or tragedy. Probably still a mixture of both, but at least I look back on it with laughter now.


This week’s RemembeRED prompt:

“Give me a memory of the color red. Do not write the word ‘red’ but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.”

I have never been a big fan of the color red, so I could only come up with two memories in which red played any significant role. Neither seemed worth writing about. But when I heard “You Might Think” Sunday night in the car for the first time in years, I took it as a sign.

Something In Our Minds Will Always Stay*

Sting sang to me through my headphones as my Mom drove our getaway car. The haunting sounds of the song “Fragile” perfectly matched the fresh wound of the argument replaying in my mind.

Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away, but something in our minds will always stay.”

I clutched my walkman and sunk into the seat, and tried to focus on Sting instead of my father’s rage, which still echoed, distorted and menacing.

On and on the rain will fall, like tears from a star…”

While Dad was not physically violent, the threat of violence always felt real. Anxiety weighed us down, more oppressive since my older brother left for school. Mom and I retreated each evening to her bedroom. Hiding there, we would eat takeout, watch TV, and pretend that the closed door protected us.

My prayers finally answered, Mom rented a house across town, closer to my school, further away from Dad. He wasn’t supposed to find out until the last possible second, but somehow he knew. He was blisteringly drunk, in a blind rage, and in possession of several serious weapons, but none of those things distinguished that night from many others. But now he was also armed with the news that we were planning to leave him.

How fragile we are…”

Mom said we needed to leave and hurried up the stairs to pack some things. I didn’t follow. Dad moved toward the staircase and I sat on the bottom step defiantly. I studied his face and worried we weren’t going anywhere. I blocked his path, partially to stall for time and partially because I believed I could calm him.

Perhaps this final act was meant, to clinch a lifetime’s argument…

Crying always made me feel weak, but my tears could quiet his rages. The tears dampened his fiery anger and he would slink off, still steaming about some perceived injustice, but knowing he’d gone too far. He’d made his baby girl cry. He was sorry, until next time.

So I looked up at him and managed to cry out “Why are you doing this?” before dissolving into tears. In response, he mocked me. It was chilling. I fled up the stairs and packed as much and as fast as I could. My head hurt and my heart ached while trying to decide what I could leave behind. I didn’t believe I would ever see anything I left behind again.

The drive to Gram’s house took less than five minutes, the soundtrack provided by “Fragile.” The song burned this night into my memory. Defeated, but safe for the moment, I sobbed as quietly as I could until I fell asleep in Mom’s childhood bed.

Mom insisted I go to school the next day even though the sight of my face in the mirror horrified me. The night of sobbing disfigured my eyelids and had nearly swollen them shut. I went to school but I wasn’t really there. My pulse quickened when I thought about what was supposed to happen at home, what might happen.

Indeed, my world transformed while I was at school. But the contrast between the past and walking into my new home after school was like stepping from black and white into the motion picture Oz in Technicolor. While I was away, my Mom made magic. She moved our lives to this new house. All of my things were safe, my room ready for me. My Mom was safe. Her friends were with her. Everyone was smiling. We felt lighter, we were free.

With this move, she rescued my soul and made all things possible.

This was 23 years ago and from the first day of our new life, the dark memories receded. But hearing “Fragile” still transports me to the night we had to flee my Dad. I feel the sting of my father’s mocking and the uncertainty about what the next day will bring.


*The title and italicized lines are from “Fragile” by Sting.

I planned on taking a little break from RemembeRED writing prompts so I could catch up on my considerable backlog of other post ideas. But this prompt resonated with me too much to let it go.

This week’s prompt: “Have you ever heard a song and suddenly you were swept back to a time in your life you had pushed to the back of your memory?…This week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory. Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing!”

I have been writing posts at least partially related to this prompt for several weeks. Earlier this year, I started an iPod shuffle challenge—listening to a complete shuffle of everything on my iPod without skipping any songs. Each week, I write about what I heard, including the random memories that certain songs evoke. The song “Fragile” came up in the shuffle several weeks ago and I wrote about both of the memories this song evokes for me here. This post expands on one of these memories.

Constructive criticism welcome, in particular I found it hard to show rather than tell. Perhaps because this is a critical piece of my life story, I am compelled to tell it.