Back in the Day!
Remember back in the 70s and 80s when fathers seemed scarier? My dad, like most dads back in the day, didn't take time off work to show up for recitals, ball games, or their kid's art show. Fathers left for work early and arrived home late. We didn't call Dad at work to tell him about an A grade. Most Dads ate left-overs from the already fed family and then headed to the TV room for nightly news with Walter Cronkite. It didn't matter if you were in the middle of your favorite show. When Dad was home, the rules of engagement changed and was turned over to his wants and needs. Weekends were spent running errands, depositing a paycheck, and grocery shopping.
Today, my father would have been 87 years old. In his honor, I was inspired to post this excerpt from The Fifth Floor because it brings back memories of a different era. I like to think that hard work, even for the simplest things like enjoying a candy bar, paid off for future goals. It was these small events that built character and mastered impeccable work ethic. Don't you agree? Anna, The Fifth Floor's heroine, persuades her younger sister Bridgett to ask their father for a must have chocolate bar. It was these types of strategies created from absolute desire that got us what we wanted. Planning (and sometimes manipulation) was a must.
Happy Birthday, Dad!
My father pulls onto the gravel lot, and Bridg and I climb out from the backseat, while my mother waits in the car. We follow our father into the market for one reason and one reason only—we are hoping he’ll buy us each a candy bar. He stands in line waiting for his number to be called as Bridg and I drool with the assortment of chocolates laid out in front of us near the cash register.
My father sees us, I know he does, but he says nothing. He has more important things to think about than us. I like to imagine it differently. “Go ahead girls, pick anything you want.” But it never happens this way. He puts us through the torture of asking.
“I asked last time,” I say to Bridgett, “so you have to ask him.”
“No you didn’t,” Bridg says, reminding me she asked last. It’s true, she did ask last week, like she does most weeks, but Bridg has more courage than I do; besides, my father doesn’t seem as bothered by her as he is by me.
Bridg takes four or five steps closer to our dad. She looks puny next to him, especially when he stands with his legs spread a foot apart leaning slightly backward like he is now. His crossed arms resting on his belly make him look bigger than he is and scarier too. Bridg waits for just the right moment to interrupt, as I listen to Dad and the butcher talking about the meat industry. There’s a slight pause. Bridget gets ready.
“Liver this week?”
“Yes, sir. Pick out a good one.”
The butcher selects a brownish piece of meat. My nose instinctively wrinkles. It will be fried tonight with onions.
“Can we get a candy bar?”
“Sure,” Dad says, looking quickly to Bridgett and then back at the butcher.
Bridg bounces back to me at the candy counter. She chooses a Marathon bar. I choose a Charleston Chew because it is the longest and thickest candy bar on the shelf. If I get it eaten before we get home, nobody can say I was greedy for choosing the biggest one. As soon as Dad pays for the meat and our chocolate, we run to the car and climb into the backseat and start in on our candy.