Monday, February 5, 2007

Blogging my father: "and then he went up on the roof"

Tonight, over dinner, my mom, brother, and I were chatting about parties and whatnot. My dad evidently likes sweet drinks-- cuba libre, flavored brandy, etc. My brother finds this novel, because it helps to elucidate certain stories about my dad's youthful excesses. More about this in a minute.

Alcohol tolerance varies widely among my family members. I'm afraid I inherited my dad's lightweightedness. I'm a cheap and surly drunk. My mom, who once claimed to be "allergic to alcohol" and tipped her drinks into my glass at dinner parties when I was a young teen, has waxed and waned in tolerance: as a diabetic, she does not currently drink at all.

On the other end of the spectrum, my brother, in a move brilliantly calculated either to kill him or to make him stronger, once engaged to discover just how much alcohol he had to drink to get drunk. As often follows in these circumstances, he didn't stop once he got there. He did stop one long swallow into his third fifth of vodka, because it was apple vodka, and he had been drinking the regular stuff... hence he noticed that it was the third and stopped. I will spare you the details of what happens to your friend's furniture, trenchcoat, party guests, vehicles, pets, and security deposit when you drink two and one tenth fifths of vodka. (Wow, I invented a new form of math! Take that, Fifth Third Bank!)

Anyhoo. My brother, speaking about my dad's preference for "girly drinks," or maybe the "Breakfast of Pansies," said this:

"That sheds a lot of light for me on some of the stories I know about Dad: the Mustang incident, the turning himself in to base police incident..." (Yes, I have heard both of these. They're both funny in that schadenfreude way. The Mustang incident involved rolling a Mustang down a steep hill and being fortunate enough to walk out of the thing unhurt and belligerently indignant, despite the fact that my dad remained 6'7" and the car had been dramatically remolded into something like 2'5". He walked 10 miles to find help, all alone, immediately after that accident. The base police thing involved him getting so blind drunk on the base where he works that he got very, very lost... and turned himself in to the base police so they could help him.)

I love to hear sentences like this one about my elders. I feel much less like a goof-off when it becomes clear that goofing off is a family tradition.

Mom told more stories about Dad's rare, wild moments in his youth. 1) The time he crawled up the front steps on his hands and knees drunk, an hour before his teetotaling churchy family members arrived for a party-- people who had never seen him crack a beer. 2) The time he got drunk with two of his friends the day after his best friend Doc, who lived in the other half of the house Dad & Mom had when they were young with his own wife, got a surgery to widen some part of his seminal delivery system (hell, I dunno-- they were trying to conceive and he had issues-- that's another story). Dad and the other friend were carrying Doc on their shoulders and each went his own way around a post, and Doc... slid down... and never did have a child. 3) The time he got drunk after eating a lot of Rice-A-Roni and vomited, and wailed "oh, my Rice-A-Roni, ohhh, my Rice-A-Roni" in mourning over the toilet, until chased out of the bathroom. This, my friends, is where it gets good.

"And then he went up on the roof," Mom continued. "We had to turn the hose on him to get him down, and it worked, but then he got back up there. He had found some fireflies and he would not come down until he figured out how they worked. 'How do they do that?' he would say, over and over. 'How do they light?' Eventually I told him they had teeny tiny light bulbs screwed into their bottoms, and that made it okay. He was satisfied, and we managed to get him back down."

Don't get the impression that my dad is a lush. He's not-- I have rarely seen him drunk at all. But it seems that under his placid and spokesman-of-decency exterior lurks one of the lampshade-wearing party people we see so much of on sitcoms. I wish I had such a lurker, too, but I do not. I go through an entirely different process as I drink. I think that if I were on a sitcom, drinking, I would have to be played by a tag team of actors as I became progressively drunker: Lily Tomlin in her Ernestine role, then maybe that churlish chick who plays Chloe on 24, and then something even sleepier, angrier, and less scintillating company. Like a female Steven Seagal. Eew.

It occurs to me that I rather hope that my friends have stories to tell about me that are just as preposterous, just as purple, just as mad and glad and charming as "and then she went up on the roof" and looked for the answer to fireflies.

Oh, my Rice-A-Roni. It's almost enough to drive a girl to drink.

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