- My father used two expressions to demonstrate exasperation with my brother and me: "Jesus wept!" was used when we did something stupid but were too young to know better and "Goddamn kid!" was used when we did something stupid even though we did know better.
Dad and I never could do anything together in the way of manual labor without ending up convulsed with laughter. This sometimes occurred with other things as well, but always occurred when there was physical exertion, such as heavy lifting. We would lift a bed, a bench, a dresser, and get two feet down a hallway or a sidewalk and begin laughing. We would try to keep moving but in no time at all we were helpless. We could not laugh and hold the weight. It might take four or five tries to get the object to its destination. During one of those tries I would hear him say, "Goddamn kid!" and I would collapse again.
- Dad was "handy," but I am not. He could fix cars, shingle roofs, whatever, whereas my practical skills are limited to changing the filler in a ball point pen. On a good day.
(As an aside: I actually knew a man - a colleague - who was more helpless than I. In his middle age he married a European woman who could do anything. At one point she went to Europe for a couple of weeks to visit relatives. While she was gone a light bulb burned out and he called her in Europe to ask what to do about it.)
Dad had remarried (my parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade) and lived in the boondocks. One day, when I was perhaps 30, I visited them, and he grabbed me and hustled me up to the roof to assist in some reshingling. I could not imagine why he thought I would be useful, but it turned out that the plan was for me to pass him tools, shingles, etc., while he did the actual work.
I swear, we were not on that roof two minutes before we were both laughing hysterically and hanging on to the roof's peak in order to avoid sliding off.
- I was perhaps six years old. It was a Saturday and my parents were going to have adult company that evening. My father announced that he was going to drive downtown to a "package store." My folks were not drinkers and there was no liquor in the house, so I didn't know what a package store was, but I knew what a drive downtown with my dad was and I asked if I might go with him.
We climbed into Old Betsy, the 1939 Chevy, and I got to ride shotgun, which was a rare treat. It was no more than a ten minute ride to town. Dad parked the car along the curb and went into a store, returning a moment later with something in a brown paper bag. He set it on the seat between us and began the drive home.
"What's in the bag?"
- I was back from the Army, and my dad and I were visiting my dad's mother and aunt, my grandmother and great aunt, both of whom loved to play Scrabble.
At some point Dad was playing the game with one of them. I was reading a book when I heard him say, "Donnie, how many effs are there in 'pontiff?'"
I said, "Two," and stood up to look over his shoulder at his tiles, which were P O N T I F U. I continued, "'Pontifu,' however, has only one."
- Early in my grammar school years, perhaps around the time of the second grade, I acquired for a brief period an obnoxious habit, a sort of oral nervous tic. Whenever I said anything or anyone said anything to me, I would repeat the end of the sentence under my breath. under my breath
I recall that I did it for several weeks, but the only conversation I remember was with my father.
"Donnie, come here a minute." come here a minute
"Stop that!" stop that
"Stop what?" stop what
"Goddamn kid!" Goddamn kid