Thursday, January 19, 2012

Family "Characters"

My parents divorced when I was in the sixth grade and a year or two later my father married a woman who had an adopted son and was caring for an infant girl, also not born to her. My father adopted the boy, Ryan, and he and his new wife, Pru, adopted the girl, Kat.

Kat was the first (and only) girl for my father, and he set about making her an idiot. At meal times she would be in her high chair and he would clown around with her, hunching his shoulders, rolling his eyes, making faces and strange noises, etc. She, of course, responded, and the two of them had a grand old time amusing each other.

Pru expressed a little concern about this, saying "You know, she's going to do all this when she's older." Dad was otherwise convinced and continued the march.

As Kat's very first day at school ended, Pru got a call from the teacher.

Teacher: "What is wrong with this child?"

Pru: "What do you mean?"

Teacher: "She squirms at her desk, she rolls her eyes, she laughs at inappropriate places, she falls out of her chair . . . ."

Pru: "I don't know. You'll have to ask her father."

Even today, Kat loves to laugh more than anyone else in the family. She is also odd in various ways. For example, she can't stand the sight of her own blood. If she cuts a finger she holds it with the other hand and walks with a limp.

On the plus side, she does a very convincing imitation of an ostrich.


Pru had her own quirks. When the kids were in high school she and my father stayed together for them, I think, in a marriage more of convenience and accommodation than anything else.

Pru was involved in local activities - 4-H, that kind of thing - and Dad worked during the day and moonlighted a couple of nights a week playing an electric organ in a restaurant lounge, so they mostly went their own separate ways.

They lived in the boondocks in New Hampshire, in an area where newspapers were not delivered and people picked up their mail at a local Post Office branch in a general store.

One Sunday morning Dad got up ahead of Pru, put the coffee on and left the house for a quick drive to the store for the Sunday newspaper. When Pru got up he asked her "What happened to your truck?"

Pru: "What do you mean?"

Dad: "There are parallel scratches all along the hood and the top of the cab, and the windshield has so many cracks you can't see through it. I'm surprised it hasn't fallen out."

Pru: "I don't know. Someone must have backed into me in the parking lot."

And there the matter rested, but *that* line is a family classic.

Pru didn't drink at all, so family speculation is that she nodded off driving home and drifted off the road into the woods, acquiring the scratches from tree branches. But she must have driven the rest of the way home with her head out the window, because the windshield was absolutely opaque.

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