The Strangest of Father's Days

     (I want to preface this posting. This is a writing of mine I expected to keep to myself. It was written the evening of Father's Day, 2010. At the time, I was single and not necessarily looking for someone to come into my life. I've lived a life never shying away from things that may make others uncomfortable, but, COME ON, these are my parents we're talking about here! Have any of you had a similar experience? I want need to hear about it.)

     In the scheme of chaotic things that make up my life, I need a constant that grounds me; something to keep things in a certain perspective.  For my entire adult life, this stabilizing force has been my parents.

     For those who don’t know my parents, my Dad is a man’s man. Blue collar to the core and devoted to Mom. He’s never cheated, he’s never raised a hand and he’s never called her a bad name. All this yet he still frustrates her to no end. The only reason she never left him is because he is one of those men that swoops in and unknowingly does an absolutely perfect romantic gesture that buys him more time. 
     My Mom on the other hand is hard core German. Rough but fair. She doesn’t put up with much and I’ve never met anyone stupid enough to challenge the 300 pound personality she carries in her 80 pound frame.
     They are proof; opposites attract.
     At this point there is a little more background that is needed before I can proceed.  You don’t need the details, so I’ll spare you, but here are the highlights. 

      I lost my virginity at 10, yes 10. To a 14 year old in a hospital bed at Children’s Hospital. Much too young to realize what was happening yet when it was over I wanted to learn more, a lot more. Understanding I was conceived and born because of a similar act, I began scouring my parent’s bedroom for answers. It didn’t take me long to find out my Dad had a penchant for shotguns and Playboy magazines. Even at the rebellious age of 10 I listened to my parents and he always told me to never, EVER touch a gun. He never mentioned what I should do if I came across a stack of Playboys.
     I sat on the floor of my Dad’s closet and flipped through what had to be a few thousand pages of magazines. I never knew what a Playboy was before that day but I had heard someone say once, “I only read it for the articles.”  There was a certain obligatory reaction which triggered inside me; I HAD to let that person know what they were missing!
     I put the magazines away and stacked them in perfect order like my Dad kept them. Sadly, there was a part of me that wondered why he would look at these when he had Mom.  I supposed that was an answer for later in life and closed my father’s closet doors.
     Flash forward two years and I am in the grasp of puberty. Over the preceding 24 months or so, there wasn’t an issue of my Dad’s Playboys I hadn’t perused without my parents knowledge.  I had even snuck a copy or two to the local bike trails for my friends to see.
     One night, sitting in my parent’s living room watching TV, I hear that unmistakable tone between parents in which something serious is being discussed. I turn my ear away from the TV and attempt to listen in.  What comes is in spurts, my Mom first, “…at that age. You have to do something.”   My Dad next, “I know but…..” 
     Further whispered sentences were exchanged before I watched my Dad stomp down the hall to his bedroom.  He closes his door, then 30 seconds later, opens it again. This time he is stomping towards me with an all too familiar brown paper slip-covered magazine.  Uh-oh, he knows!
     Always having a mischievous side growing up, I learned early on to wait and find out what they knew before I confessed to anything.  This time certainly wasn’t going to be an exception.  I watched as my Dad sat next to me, hands rolling the magazine in his hands nervously. He looked me in the eye and began with, “Kevin, your mother and I feel you are at an age where you need to know about certain things. Adult things.”
     Looking down at his hands, he extracted a Playboy with a clichéd blond on the cover.  He flipped through the pages and unfolded the centerfold. As he turned it to me, I could tell he was expecting a reaction.  Seeing he wasn’t getting one yet, he decided to continue. Pointing to the model’s breasts, he started, “These are called, Breasts or Tits. Some people even call them Jugs, Honkers, or Bazoombas.”
     I made a mental note to tell my friends we could start calling them Bazoombas.
     He continued, “Women have breasts in order to feed their children soon after they are born.”
     At this, a scream came from the kitchen, “Darrell, get in here, now!!”
     Watching the invisible tail tuck itself as my Dad turned and headed for the kitchen, I was left with the centerfold in front of me.  I looked back to the cover and was disappointed it was an issue I had already looked through.
     No sooner had my Dad entered the kitchen, he returned, takes the Playboy from my hand and returns it to his room.  There is no further discussion regarding the pictures he just tried to show me or sex or birds and bees or what goes on between them.  I was 12 years old trying to get the look on my face and the rest of my body to exude towards my father; I know Dad, it’s ok. I figured it out already.
      In my early teen years, my parent’s bedroom was right above my basement abode.  I heard EVERYTHING through the ventilation system. I knew what went on and continued to take mental notes on what seemed to work and what didn’t. Not realizing until much later in life, I should have covered my head with a pillow like the rest of the world does in such situations. 
      The rest of High School, College and beyond was, to me, pretty typical. It wasn’t long before the side of my parents which made them conceive my brother and I faded into obscurity.
      Flash forward another 25 years to today. 
     I am at my parents for Father’s Day. He has not aged so well and even though he is just shy of 70, looks 80.  My mother has had some very serious medical problems of late and I was sure she wouldn’t make it to today.  We have a nice visit that is sprinkled with me telling them stories about the kids and work.  I watch as my Mom winces when she thinks I’m not watching. My Dad seems to be breathing harder than usual and it concerns me.  I wonder how much longer they will be around.
     I had brought a card for my Dad, one I spent hours picking out for a change.  He reads it and his stoic face actually wells a bit with tears. He thanks me, we hug and give each other the uncomfortable three pats on the back, which when I was younger someone told me stood for, “I’m – Not – Gay.”

     We spend another hour or so following a conversational thread that has become our Sunday norm.  I get ready to go and my Mom reminds me to take their Sunday paper they have finished. When I get home most of the coupons from the circulars will have been cut out but the remaining pages will be in a perfect stack inside the folded paper. 
     I walk out to the car and my parents follow. I have to walk slower these days in order to make them feel less self conscious.  It takes me twice as long to get to my car and when I do I turn and my parents are still shuffling up.  They don’t hold hands and I haven’t seen them with their arms around each other since my wedding 20 years ago. The last time I saw them kiss, I was 15 and they were alone on the patio, half-drunk and grilling midnight hamburgers after they thought I was asleep. 
     I stand inside my car door and take a long look at them as they come closer. Having been unlucky in love for a while I consider perhaps it is tolerance and compassion I should look for in a partner instead of a true connection and sexual compatibility.
     My Mom leans in first as is her routine, steps on her tippy toes and kisses my cheek. I hug her but I don’t squeeze anymore, I haven’t in years. She is so thin and frail I’m afraid I’ll snap her. 
     I turn to my Dad to wish him another Happy Father’s Day and he startles, looks up at me like he forgot something and tells me to hold on before he heads back towards the house. I look to my Mom for an answer and she smiles with neutrality which has left me guessing since childhood.  She is not giving it up.
     My Mom asks a few mundane questions to pass the time and after a few minutes my Dad comes back out to the car.  In his hand he is holding what looks like a greeting card but it’s hard to tell. He stands behind my Mom as I answer her last question then says, “Look. We have something we want you to have.”  He steps from behind my Mom and I glance at his hand. I can see where I get the ginormous hands everyone tells me I have because I can’t see anything but fingers, veins and a corner of cardstock.
     My Dad has always been somewhat of a character. He will set you up for what I have always affectionately called, “The Whoopdie Woo.”  My Dad gets all serious then hits you with something comical, trying to get a laugh.  Over the years I have been able to gauge Whoopdie Woo serious with plain old-fashioned serious.  This was plain old-fashioned serious.
     He brings his hand up and while looking me in the eye, says, “You can’t have this out when the kids are around.”
     I glance at my Mom and she is still a statue, except this time, the corners of her mouth are turned up the slightest bit.
     Looking back to my Dad, my mind is racing. In his hand the card begins to show itself. I can see large lettering at the top but it is still upside down. I can make out the letters “emo” and that’s it. Reversing them I try and find a word ending in “ome”.  During my Dad’s next step I come up with: come, some and home. 
     He pauses again for dramatic purpose as he does when the point he is about to make is to be taken seriously.  At this point, I’m at a loss. No matter what it is, I’ll handle it. I’ll step up as I usually do and get them through it. After his pregnant pause he confides, “You know I’ve had a subscription to Playboy, right?”

     All I can do is nod my head because my brain is throwing up Mayday signals right and left, trying to come up with a cover-story to the few missing Playboys I snatched over 30 years ago.
     I steal a glance at my Mom and she has not stopped looking at me but her smile has widened and her eyes are a little shinier. 
     “Well last month your Mom renewed my subscription and this came with it.” My Dad continues.
     He turns the card around and for the first time as he’s handing it to me, I can read it. Across the top in large letters, earlier hidden by my 69 year old father’s arthritic fingers, it reads, “Playboy’s Uncensored Home Videos”.
     My world goes hazy for a moment. What the flying fuck is going on here!
     “Your mother and I thought you would like to have it.” He gently moves it towards me like he’s handing me a family heirloom.
     I’ve been in a lot of awkward situations in my life but this one has officially trumped them all.
     I thought, until Mom spoke up.
     “Which track was it, Darrell, where I thought the dark haired girl was Kevin’s type?”
     WHAT? NO! My mind is actually convulsing. I can see sparks flying and smoke behind my eyes. This isn’t happening.
     “I’m not sure, it was early on because we were still actually watching it.”
     Did my Dad just wink at my Mom?
     I force my mind to come up for air. There has to be a reason for this. Some pre-conceived joke I haven’t been let it on yet. Yeah, that’s it.
     I notice my Mom looking at my Dad in a way I’ve never noticed. A way which makes me feel like an intruder. A way which makes me wonder if I shouldn’t give the local paramedics a heads-up to keep an eye on the house for a few hours after I leave. What the hell is going on here?
     I’m never at a loss for words, except here. What on EARTH do I say?  Thankfully my Dad steps in and mentions the fact I haven’t seemed very happy lately. I glance at the blond on the front of the card with her seductive lips and wanting eyes and wonder how on earth he thinks she is the answer. 
     Folks, you never in a million years want to picture your Dad masturbating to a porno. For over thirty years since the “M” word was brought to my attention, I have fought the good fight and kept those thoughts at bay.
     Until today at 2:58 pm.
     My Mom, sensing my disturbed demeanor, assures me with, “You don’t have to give it back.”
     Really Mom?! You mean we’re not going to have a book-club type meeting after I watch it and discuss the motivation behind Miss Lovealotacock’s character?
     In order not to offend them, and to, let’s face it, stall. I decide to look at the back of it. What possessed me, I will never know. I’m not into Porn, never have been but I feigned interest like a Pro there in my Mom and Dad’s suburban driveway this afternoon.  “Oh, it seems they are amateurs!” Weak, Kevin, real weak. “That’s good, right?”  I pray it’s my Dad that answers.
     “They say that but you can tell those girls are pros.” It’s my Mom that assures me of this fact. NASA has begun a countdown for all my brain matter at this point. Her statement screams the next question, How do YOU know?! I don’t dare ask it aloud for fear she answers.
     Begging for my Dad to take the reins again, I look him in the eye and thank him.  It wasn’t a genuine thanks or even an impersonal one. It was a new, just made up on the spot, I don’t know what else to say Thanks.
     He punctuates my thanks with a quick nod of his head and I scramble to get into my car trying desperately not to look my Mom in the eye. I start the car, close the door and roll the window down, finding temporary solace in our parent/son routine again. 
     I place the card which contains the DVD under my visor. I distract myself by jamming my car in reverse and slowly backing out of the driveway, putting too much acting into it; anything to keep from dragging this out.
      As I roll to a stop and begin to drive away, I always stop for a second and wave before moving down the road. My parents have their positions they always take, next to each other, yet apart. This time, however, my Dad is standing next to my Mom with his arm around her and it is my turn to turn the corners of my lips up in a knowing smile.

     This actually happened this afternoon. Right now it is less than 8 hours later and I have written it all out. I am by myself, laptop firmly placed and the DVD is in the drive.  I haven’t watched it, it’s not my thing.  There is a part of me, however, that wonders what exactly my Mom and Dad, when it comes to Pornos, think is my type. In the right corner of my screen is a small box asking me what I want to do: “Play DVD” or “Eject DVD”.
     I’ve spent my life looking for that one perfect person. Today, I witnessed how an imperfectly perfect relationship is supposed to work.  There is an imperfectly perfect person for me out there; I just need to find her.  I hope to anyone reading this you find yours as well. With that in mind, I think the button I press will be…

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