Pretty much, my feathers are tough to ruffle. I don’t embarrass easily. Others? Some do. Like my dopey sister-like substance, “Tweedie.” Tweedmeister made the mistake of having children. When her son was 4, Philip was clutching her leg in a Montana department store. A lady, shuffling through the same sales rack, smiled all warm and Western. She cooed: “Ohhhhh! What a SWEET little boy!!”
Mutant little mutt instead of Zorro, young Philip didn’t graciously thank the stranger, bow and produce a rose. No. In a voice loud enough to be heard in Saskatchewan, he announced: “I’m smelling my mommy’s — BUTT…”
That’s why they have outdoor orphanages in the Red States.
My dear Pops, whom I loved in uncountable oodles, was a frequent source of embarrassment in his later years. Along that final stretch, Dad misplaced his entire Filtration System. He spoke whatever he wanted to whomever he wanted. Often, the message had sharp edges. Dad was always in insane race horse shape and happily touted Rest, Nutrition & Exercise upon the unprotected heads of strangers.
We’re in the produce section one day and Pops notices this woman. You’ve probably seen her on that reality show being pulled out of a snow bank by a six giant diesel tow trucks. Bold as brass, my father makes a beeline for this überlady apparently lost in that unfamiliar part of the store that sells iceberg lettuce. Dad smiles. Without “hello” or “pardon me,” just starts lecturing her — and I’m not making this up — that she doesn’t have to stay… what’s the word Dad used?
Father happily unloads the benefits of water instead of beer steins brimming with melted butter. Adding insult to diabetes, Pops explains how “…just a little exercise” will be good for her figure, wherever she may be hiding it. He tops off the intrusion by performing jumping jacks inches away from her.
“HUT-ONE HUT-TWO HUT-THREE!!!!” Dad counts off, reliving an early moment of World War II boot camp.
Mid-calisthenics, I gently guided Pops away from the nice immense lady. Dad was all smiles and asked if I thought she would start exercising.
“Soon as she gnaws her way through the canned Dinty Moore beef stew aisle, Dad,” I replied.
Dad got me pretty good one morning. He was in that up-&-down period of dementia and could be his regular Sweetest Dad A Guy Could Own mental state or he could be quite hostile and aggressive. In my undies, I stumbled out to the kitchen to make tea. Dad was hunched over the wall phone, angrily barking at someone. I asked if I could help. He turned his back to me. He yells that his son was trying to hit him, yells some more, slam-bang hangs up the phone then storms off. For those who watch over confused and aging parents, it’s just part of a regular day. Patience, kindness and smiles go a long way.
Did I mention? It’s early? I’m prancing merrily about — In? My? Underwear? I’m in my 60s then, and calls to pose as the ripped Viking love god on the cover of cheap women’s pulp romance novels were rare. Ten minutes later, I’m in my office, an addition on the back of the house. I’m sipping tea, computering. There’s a knock. No. More like a Bigfoot pounding on the side of a barn, demanding the farm animals come out with their hands up.
A bass voice barked: “OPEN UP THIS IS THE SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT!!!!”
I opened the door. Standing there, in body armor and a beige Maytag Repairman uniform, was about 694 pounds of cop. Worse? Behind him, somehow, the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station managed to hire the Absolute World’s Cutest Blonde Sheriff’s Deputy-ette With A Rodeo-Barrel-Racer/Girl-Next-Door Howdy Let’s Date Smile. I’m torn between diving for some pants — my pants — or getting shot. Worse? Third option? I could get tackled by Meglacop in the receiving end position of The Love That Knows No Name while my next ex-wife watches my spare tire frolic on the floor like some X-rated Disney cartoon sea creature.
Going Reader’s Digest on you, turns out my father couldn’t find his wallet and had called the police, got flustered, yelled and hung up. Thinking my father’s being murdered, all of Los Angeles County suffered a brief crime wave because EVERYBODY from the Sheriff’s Department was logjammed up Little Tujunga Canyon and onto my Iron Canyon driveway.
The giant deputy was kind enough to allow me to jump into some jeans and throw a Wilk For Governor hoodie over my wife-beater T-shirt. Quickly, the dear deputies figured out what was going on: Senior Moment On Steroids. Yes. I kept Dad’s wallet. Why? Because his medical cards were in it and Dad had a way of keeping it in safe and secret places not necessarily on our property. Once, a neighbor called saying he had to fight squirrels for Dad’s wallet, lodged in the crook of one of his heritage oaks.
“I gotta ask,” said Kong Island Deputy. “Your dad says that you stole $750,000 of his money, in cash…”
A sigh of the dead escaped me. Tiredly, I stared at Dad, pursed my lips and squinted. Dad giggled and sheepishly shrugged. I said, “If I had known he had $750,000 in cash lying around the house I would have murdered him years ago.”
Which wasn’t the smartest thing to say in front of a police convention. But, we all laughed, especially Pops. Then Dad gave me the biggest hug and asked if he could make me breakfast.
Sigh. Wouldn’t it be a great invention — a portable hole we’d carry in our pocket, to toss on the floor and swan dive into during life’s embarrassing moments?
I never got the chance to slip The World’s Cutest Deputy’s phone number into my stretched-out moth-eaten off-white cotton BVD’s.
Sigh. Just as well. We would have wed, had kids, been happy. But, when she turned 90, I’d be 147…
After that last embarrassing event, John Boston is now fully clothed, 24/7. Visit his bookstore at johnbostonbooks.com.