Sunday, June 5, 2011

Family Function A La Short Story

It's so early Jesus isn't even awake yet. Saturday morning. Everyone in this house knows it's a cardinal rule not to talk to me before my morning coffee. Walking alone through Detroit at 2 AM is safer than talking to me before my big ol' jug of Folgers.

It's the day of my cousin's graduation. And by that I mean my family congregates and interrogate me on my life in New York and why my hair looks like something out of a Studio 54 exhibit at the MoMa. I have a churning knot in my stomach. I come downstairs, unkempt and marathon sneezing (thanks for nothing, Claritin), aching to pour myself a cup of coffee. My dad, already in his chipper Sunday alacrity is lurking nearby, waiting to fire out his one-liners like a revolver.  I was not having it.

"Could you dress down today, everyone from the family will be there," roared my mother upstairs who was batting her eyelashes into her knock-off TJ Maxx Elizabethan gold framed mirror. I scowl with a hint of acquiesce but dismiss the thought as fast as it came in. About to pour the caffeinated elixir into my cup my dad goes, "You know how people my age get kidney stones?" "Why, padre?" "Because we listen to a lot of Rolling Stones." BOOM. Shot of Bailey's into my coffee. It was going to be a long day.

I hear my brother upstairs mutilating a Portishead record with effervescent abandon by virtue of impromptu karaoke. I already forecast he's throwing on some khakis and a plaid shirt, which is to be followed by making fun of whatever I was going to wear. Typical. There was no way I could allow myself to fit in with the bevy of kin getting together later.

My dad comes by and sits in a rocker that looked about as old as Grandmother Willow. I sip my coffee in silence as my dad hums along to the radio. I watch him sit there with his green eyes ablaze, looking like a cobra ready to attack. I sit there, just bearing and getting ready for whatever was going to come through his mouth. I move my pawn first.

"Do you have your comedic material ready for today?" I cooed, over the faint sound of a Springsteen record as the steam of the coffee lifts past my face. "There are two new baby groundhogs in the yard," he starts. Brace yourselves. "I named them Johnnie and Walker!" Ok. IVs of Svedka. Up and down my arm. Let's go.

My brother comes downstairs at a glacial pace, looks at me and goes "what is up with your hair today?" The same thing that's up with it every fucking day. "I'm a unicorn. And if you ask me that again, I'm going to harpoon you in the gallbladder. I made you a nice fresh cup of coffee," I replied with a smile faker than Cher's weave.

Ready to depart to be tortured unmercilessly the family function, my dad pulls me aside and said something that changed the day a 180 degrees.

"No guts, no glory. I'm proud of how strong you are."

My dad used to tell me that on a daily basis when I was younger. I used to hate that phrase. Maybe it's because of the word "guts." But now I'm thankful he carved that phrase into my brain because it's the mantra I exude.

So thanks, dad. Even though you're cheesy as shit, you're a class act.

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