They actually announced that they were going to move when I began college five years ago. Our current house is too big for their liking, they say. It is true. With both of my sisters moved out and me attempting to find any possible way to afford to move out, there are too many rooms, too many things to clean. Also, they want a house with fewer stairs because they are getting “old.”
They are nowhere near immobile and I do not foresee them having any issues climbing stairs for the next twenty years.
What is most amusing to me is the fact that their beach house, with which they are perfectly content, requires them to walk up twenty steps just to get into the house, then another fifteen to get to their bedroom level.
The fact that they have not found a new house is something that doesn’t really surprise me. They have two basic criteria for the choice of their next house (at least criteria that they say aloud): it has to be a rancher, because of rancher’s inherent lack of staircases, and it has to have a two-car garage, because of two-car garage’s inherent ability to house two cars. I know that their
standards go much deeper, however, and that even the slightest imperfection turns a perfectly fine rancher into an unlivable dwelling. The kitchen requires too much work. Or, the garage, while very spacious, opens up to a small driveway. Or, one of the closet doors squeaks. Or, the overhead fans spin counterclockwise. Or, the doorbell only goes ding instead of ding-dong.
You know, the basic stuff.
I have not-so-secretly rejoiced in their failures to find a new home, not just because this is the house in which I have spent my entire life. Not because I have had countless joyful memories between the bricks that have surrounded me for 23 years. And not because moving would require me to say goodbye to a life I once knew.
I just don’t want to have to box up all my shit.
I have a lot of shit.
As I said, though, I didn’t have anything to worry about due to my parents’ indecision. That is, until very suddenly, my parents decided to redo the kitchen. This was a red flag.
“Youngman, we are going to redo the kitchen,” they said one Sunday night.
“Mmm hmm,” I said.
“We want the house to look nice when we start to show it.”
“You should start to clean up your room and pack up some of your stuff so that your room looks presentable.”
Two weeks later, we had a new floor, countertops, sink, stove, and refrigerator. I suddenly knew the feeling that old people with arthritis and healed broken bones get when it is going to rain soon. A storm was coming in the form of realtors and potential homeowners.
And so, I began the long process of boxing up all the stuff in my room.
I did it fairly haphazardly. My room was a mess, so the boxes were destined to be filled messily. Instead of being packaged categorically they were boxed by sections of my room. Whatever fit. Trophies and ribbons mixed with books and shoes. Old shirts and sweatshirts put together with knick knacks and paddy whacks.
I was just finishing up “Southeast Corner of Room” when I came across my senior shirt from high school. Senior shirts were simply shirts that were made at the end of Junior year. The front read, simply, “SENIORS” and the back was a custom moniker or epithet that each individual upcoming senior got to pick. Some had some very creative names. John Ball’s shirt read “BALLS DEEP.” Matt Botta: “BOTTA BING.”
I went with “BOB’S SON.”
My dad taught at my high school.
All four years. He was there. At the most socially stressful time in a young person’s life. Right there. In the same building.
A decade or so prior, I attended kindergarten at the same high school. Back then, it was the coolest thing to have your father come in and play Rubber Ducky on the piano for the class. “Your dad is the coolest,” the other kids would say.
In high school, they would say, “Your dad is a dick. He gave me a detention.”
Our house would get egged. That always hurt, especially when my dad would spend countless hours powerwashing it off.
I always defended him. I would complain to my friends about my dad not letting me go to a concert or some other insanely unfair and unjust form of parental imprisonment. But when one of my friends complained to me about a bad grade, I wouldn’t hear it. “Well, did you deserve it?” I would ask, eerily echoing the words and tone generally used by my father.
It was a tough life: high school with one of your parents in attendance.
I found that the best way to cope with it was to embrace it, hence “BOB’S SON.”
And it did have its rare perks. If I ever needed help with any math homework, he was right there in the same house, and would not only help me get the right answer, but help me to understand all the concepts involved. At school, if I forgot to bring my lunch, I had my own personal ATM sitting in Room 213. One time, he even signed a hallway pass for me to go home so that I could drive home and pick up a paper I had left sitting in my room. This was a strange aberration from a very by-the-rules kind of guy.
Unfortunately, the drawbacks vastly outweighed any benefits. Especially senior year, when I had the pleasure of taking Calculus with the only teacher who taught the subject in the school. Who was that, one might ask? Let’s just say that a parent-teacher conference could be held inside my teacher’s brain. Unless he wanted to talk to my mom.
As I said, my dad was a very by-the-rules kind of guy, so he made sure to randomly call on me when I wasn’t paying attention. He was also the provider of my first and only detention, for being late to class one day. It worked out fine, because my car was in the shop and I had to wait for him after school anyway to hitch a ride. But seriously, dad? Two weeks before graduation you smear my pristine disciplinary record?
I also had to deal with indirect criticism from other students in regards to my successes. I got an A in Calculus. I am sure that most of my peers asked, “How could he not?” I ask the same question, but for a different reason. How could I not do well in a class where I have no possible option of hiding a test score from my parents or being able to not do my homework? If I failed the course, I certainly would have been failed. And grounded.
At graduation, four awards are given to seniors for their academic achievements and involvement in school activities. I was honored with the most prestigious of these awards. Thank you, thank you. You can stop applauding and read on.
Afterward, my dad relayed reports to me of some parents complaining that I won because of him, as if he was the one who made the decision. There was a whole committee of faculty who voted on the recipients of these awards, and my dad made sure he was not one of them.
That was probably the worst part of having my dad as a teacher at my high school -- the feeling that my hard work in class and my involvement in the school meant nothing, and the only reason I was recognized for anything was because my father pulled my apparent inept ass above the ranks.
While I felt as if I was burdened with a lead weight for my four years of high school, in hindsight they offered me with a real glimpse into my father’s life. Now I know, all too well, the shit that he has to deal with day in and day out, both from administration and from the little devils that are America’s future. Now, out of school, I can certainly relate to him better, considering the bond that we shared.
For my dad’s birthday one year, he got one of those catalogues where you can pick one or two things. He probably would have preferred cash, but this was the scenario he was presented with. He picked walkie-talkies. The good kind that can reach two miles and have different channels.
One Mischief Night, he took one of the walkie-talkies and parked his car down the street. I took the other and parked my car across the street in our neighbor’s driveway. Our goal was to catch the eggers in the act. He made it clear that we would only get their license plate numbers or their descriptions. But I had other plans. I would chase them down in my car and beat the shit out of them. Then perhaps make them climb a ladder and lick the egg off of our siding.
Of course, that was the one year that nobody came to defile our house.
I still loved that night.
I figure that once my parents finally move out of their “too big” house, it should make everyone’s lives easier. The little shitheads, for one, won’t have to throw their eggs as high. But Bob, in his old age, won’t have to reach as high to powerwash the mess off or climb any ladders. Either way, all he needs to do is tell me a license plate number.
Bob’s son always has his back.
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