I was not the kind of person who would spit in the face of his own father, although, I may be now. But it's too late it seems. He raised us to be great doctors, lawyers, and business people, and each of us is at least one of those, some of us are two even three. It depends on how deeply our father scarred us. To misquote a Bible Proverb, Many fathers have done harm, but thou exceedeth them all.
When I was fourteen years old, I shuffled into the batter's box. I had practiced swinging that bat until I was sick of it, and then I swung it some more. Begging became the only way I could get people to pitch to me. Brothers, sisters, cousins, anybody was a target. Most of them struck me out.
I stood in that dusty rectangle and took a couple of warm-up swings. The first one, I let go by. Shouldn't have, though. Dad told me so from the bleachers. I took a good cut at the second one. Wrong again. I nailed the third one. Just from the way the bat felt when it connected with the ball, I knew it had gone far enough for me to make it to second. So I kept pumping my legs like mad. The center fielder and left fielder had just gotten to the ball, so I kept going, never slowed up. I got to third standing up. Didn't even have to get down and dirty.
He sat down on my bed the same night. I was still riding high on that hit. Two other runners on base and my triple won the game. High fives, pats on the back, I knew you could do it they all said, girls smiling, coach proud as he could be. And then there was Dad.
"You know, five more feet and that ball would have been over the fence."
"Yeah, I know, Dad, but..."
"Next time, son. You'll get it next time."
Then he just got up and left. Probably went to hit a home run of his own. I heard him talking to Mom later. Why teach the boy to settle for a triple when he can own the team?
"Settle for a triple? At fourteen years old? My god, Dad."
I have a brother who is somewhat effeminate. I think we all loved him that much more because of how Dad treated him. Some assholes followed him home from school one day and kicked the shit out of him in the front yard. Dad stepped out onto the porch and watched. At first, the jerks stopped, thinking they were in for it now. When Dad just stood there, they laughed and finished what they had started. I suppose Dad thought they might kick the sissy out of him if he left them to it.
I could go on and on. Sisters not pretty enough, not smart enough, not dating the right boys, too tall, too short, too everything, not enough of anything. As adults, we joined the wrong firms, bought the wrong cars, paid too much for our houses. And then he started in on his grandkids. That's when most of us called it quits. We just turned our backs and walked away. Until now.
What do you do when the biggest pain in the ass in your life dies, and he's your father? I'll tell you what we did. All eight of us, mind you, lined up at the reading of the will and signed it away to charity. Imagine that. Charity.
"I'm the oldest, and they all still look up to me. Standing by the casket, I look at his face, the face that had contorted and sneered when I dared graduate from undergrad school, Magna Cum Laude. I spit in that face and walk away. Behind me, I can hear the others doing the same, all eight of us.
The funeral home staff glance back and forth between us and the mess we've left behind. The other guests stare open mouthed or mouthing some phrase of disbelief. My brothers, sisters and I meet in one of the small chapels and laugh until we cry. Then we cry until we're so emotionally wrung out we can barely say goodbye, have a nice life. Mom showed us how it's done. She got some morphine from a friend dying of cancer. Quick, easy, painless and free of that man.
I'll live the rest of my life with him in my head. There is no way it can be otherwise. But I really should end this story now. I've found some ways I can make things a little better in this head of mine and in this family of mine. Right now I'm going out into the back yard to play catch with my son. Then I'll pitch to him, and I won't care if he hits it or not. I'll just be glad I'm there.
Madonna, "Oh Father"
It's funny that way, you can get used
To the tears and the pain
What a child will believe
You never loved me
You can't hurt me now
I got away from you, I never thought I would
You can't make me cry, you once had the power
I never felt so good about myself.