[Young Julie] “Dad? Donald? Uh… Don?”
[Young Father] “Hey you”is fine. Or Horseface – Yeah, that’ll do.”
“Do you think you’re good lookin?”
He gets up to leave.
“Hey, wait a minute.”
“I got stuff to do.”
“Just five minutes.”
“What’s the deal?”
“You’re a good looking guy.”
[Even more annoyed, squirms, then loudly] “That’s sissy stuff.”
“Ever see yourself in the mirror?”
“Nope. Your Mom’s got one in her bathroom, but I don’t…”
“How do you know what you look like before you go to work?”
“I put my clothes on…[a look]…Even wear socks…Har, har.” [Silence]
“Well, people complain that you’re not being affectionate.”
“I don’t have time for that.”
In Father’s family no one had time for that. Not with five children, sewing, cooking, piano lessons, football, school, clothes, homework, organizing, moving, shopping….
I see my grandfather sitting in the next room, listening. They didn’t have time for those things when he was young either, not in the early 1900s. Practical things first. His silent rejection of my questions thunders into the room. How ungrateful you are to feel you’re unloved! Saying it - that’s like having to explain existence. Of course they loved you, they provided for you, didn’t they?
[Grandfather, to himself] “These people have their heads on backwards. What era do they live in?”
[Young Julie, continuing] “I’d like to address the idea of you’re… not being emotionally here.”
[Young Father] “What am I a nursemaid? “
Father thinks emotions are like pots boiling over, a sign of bad housekeeping. Complaints? There’s a rule book for that. Isn’t this child aware that she is of German and English blood, superior enough to figure it all out?! And lastly, surely this question will go away if he just doesn’t answer it. The silence says it’s finished, the subject is to be changed. Hardly, I think. It deserves to be answered.
“I’m serious Dad.”
[A beat, then a cool look from Don, with his own father’s words in his head]
“Children…should be seen and not heard.”
Yeah, right. It’s about respect. How on earth can children learn, think, reason, or amount to a hill-of-beans if they only listen to themselves? It makes as much sense as winding the clock backwards. It sets the world off kilter.
“Emotion is for women.”
Yeah, like housework.
“There are clear definitions of who does what.”
[Looking at me as if I’d slipped out of line or had measles, he mutters]
“I can’t waste time talking to women, their minds confuse things. The world and trains run by logic, time tables… otherwise everybody would collide. Eat your peas.”
That’s it. There is simply no more discussion on this matter. He has finished you off with the same absolute assurance that his daughter will display many years later.