I have caught glimpses of the movie Cheaper by the Dozen, and the Sound of Music, but I’m sorry, I just can’t get with either of them. It may have been that way for some families with 12 kids, but not for mine.
I figured a while back I wanted to blog, not so much about growing up in a large family, lots of people grew up in large families. I wanted to blog about lots of things, social issues, personal experiences, history, things I enjoyed or held dear to me. So I guess tonight I’m gonna pick a straw and write about my Dad.
I mean there are 14 characters in my family, my Dad would probably be the most polarizing figure because the truth is, he truly is one of those people who just doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about him.
The guy just outright confused me all of my life, like the things he cared about. He never looked at a report card, but expected all of us to go on to college. He had a routine, and it didn’t revolve around us, it was his world and God knows if one of us got out of line, we had exactly five seconds to explain ourselves. That was Dad.
He was our fearless leader, meaning he led us to do things we loathed. Let’s talk about garbage night, every well meaning civilian in town knew Dad loved a deal or anything free, that meant as the cop on disbatch he would get messages from well wishers that whomever would be getting new furniture. That meant on Tuesday and Thursday night, we would get the marching orders to go to a certain address and pick up whatever furniture was being disposed of and somehow get it back to 43. Forty three was our house, and we didn’t call my father Dad, we called him Jack behind his back. Yup, that’s right, garbage nights were dreaded. There were times we would sit around the kitchen table as teenagers (the appointees) and strategize on how to get either a couch or a chair, lamps, mattresses, you name it, home without anyone seeing us. Did I mention we lived on a main street? Yeah, life was great! We would take turns carrying the piece and whenever we saw a car’s headlights, we would duck behind the couch or bushes as to go unnoticed.
Then there were the nights he worked the McDonald’s shifts, for me it was pure hell everytime it was my turn to have a parent pick us up from Rollerskating. All my friends loved Jack, he would pull up in a white pontiac, spitting fumes, yelling at all of us to get the hell in the car, and I mean that literally. Yelling, C’mon, get in, get in, I don’t have all night, and when most parents would drop each child off right in front of their house, Jack had no time for that, he’d drop everyone off at the grammer school. There was always someone in my group who would snort laughter in the back seat because Jack insisted on dead silence, they were familiar to his ways. That was a real deal breaker for Jack, he would go off on all of us and it wasn’t just that, he would have to tell them all his feet needed soaking, he worked 21 hours and he had to deal with a bunch of selfish kids. No joke, that was Dad.
But here’s the kicker, he knew everyone of them, and he knew every one of their parents. And he had a list on dispatch to round up everyone of us at a certain hour and bring us in if we were out on the streets and the parents adored him. He had eight daughters and knew every single one of their friends, and he put the fear of life in all of us. There was no hanging on corners, no smoking in public, no drinking in bars, you were pretty much screwed.
As we all got older, Dad retired, and went to work in a local hospital as an engineer. He had studied the test while he was a cop. Whenever one of my friends parents were in the hospital, Dad would watch over them, and whenever my friends had babies, they could all, each and every one of them, count on Dad waking them up at 3:15 a.m. for coffee, (no joke). This was his way of communicating to them, he really never had much to say to kids of the next generation, he communicated his own way, his way, his watch, his world. And, as my best friend stated, he’d make you drink that coffee and he would sit there and not say a word and read his paper. If you asked him a question, he would shhh you telling you he only had a 15 minute break.
Everyone in town now knows Dad, he’s now a crossing guard, and my poor friend from childhood has the misfortune of living across the street from his post. She has four kids and that’s some task getting them out on different buses, not to mention my father banging on her door ten minutes early before the bus gets there to remind her the bus is coming. As we say in Jersey, waddyagonnado? Jack the Wack, it’s who he is, he’ll never change, he lived his entire life by the watch and it’s that watch that keeps him going.
I wish I had a picture of the inside of Jack’s house, my Mother is now gone, but I must get one. Inside there are 14 at last count different lamps in the living room and dining room, three couches in the living room, two chairs, a dining room table as big as the dining room with mix and match chairs. We have always referred to it as the Munster house, and as we became adults, we threw that out because the Munsters had nothing on us.