Whenever the holidays roll around, our thoughts inevitably turn to my late father, a man with a great sense of humor, a love of animals, and a passion for food.
Late in life, once he started experiencing health issues, the family doctor put him on a special diet. No fried foods. No sweets. Just lean meats and fresh veggies prepared with little oil moving forward. Of course, it was my mother who was expected to follow those instructions once they returned home. And, of course, it was my father who grumpily refused to eat until mom prepared something he actually enjoyed – namely everything he’d been told to steer clear of.
Months later, my mother accompanied dad for a check-up. The doctor informed him that his cholesterol was higher than ever. Had he been following the diet he’d been given? Realizing there was no point in lying, my father admitted he had, in fact, been eating the same fried foods he been instructed to steer clear of.
“Why?”asked the doctor, incensed.
“It’s not my fault,”my father shrugged. “That’s just the way my wife cooks.”
The story is made all that more memorable by the fact that my mother was in the examination room with him at the time and though steamed, said nothing!
My father loved seafood. And he also loved all-you-can-eat deals. So when a local seafood restaurant announced an all-you-can-eat shrimp dinner special, my father HAD to check it out.
At the restaurant, he informed the waiter he was there for the all you can eat shrimp special, sat back and waited. Fifteen minutes later, he was served – an order of five shrimp.
“What’s this?”asked my father.
“Shrimp,”said the waiter.
“I ordered the all-you-can eat.”
“Oh, you can eat all you want,”the waiter assured him. He could order once he was done.
My father was a man of quaint sayings. “He’s bats in the belfry” and “Wouldn’t that jar your preserves?” were two of his go-to’s. Another favorite, which he uttered on this particular night, was “I leave this much on my plate when I’m done.” He placed his order for a second round, polished off his five shrimp and waited. And waited.
Twenty minutes later, his second serving of shrimp arrived – this time, a meager three. My father was outraged. The waiter, for his part, seemed amused by my dad’s can-do attitude, once again assuring him he could eat as much as he wanted…once he had finished what was on his plate.
Some fifteen minutes later, the waiter returned to check on him. “Would you like anything else?”he asked.
“Yes!”said my father, incensed. “More shrimp!”
The waiter seemed surprised, but nevertheless headed off to inform the kitchen. They had a live one!
Another twenty minute wait and another lowly three shrimp later, the waiter returned and asked if my father wanted dessert.
“No,”my father angrily informed him. “I want more shrimp.”
“More shrimp?!”said the waiter, no doubt casting his gaze about the room to spot the hidden camera, seemingly amazed by my father’s inhuman ability to consume more than eleven shrimp.
Needless to say, my father never went back – and never failed to repeat this story whenever future all-you-can-eat opportunities arose.
Another one of my favorite dad stories took place one hot summer day when my sister and I were kids. Back then, my parents would purchase frozen orange juice concentrate for us. All we had to do was mix it with cold water and, voila, instant orange juice. That’s ALL we had to do but, apparently, actually making the orange juice was such a hardship that my sister and I avoided doing so at all costs. There was an unwritten rule that whoever finished the juice would have to make the next batch and so, we went to great pains to avoid pouring that last glass. As a result, the remnants of that orange juice container would sit for days, sometimes weeks, as Andria and I would play our own version of chicken. In the case of this particular batch, it must have sat there for close to a month as my sister and I dug in our heels, and that orange fermented and fizzed.
And then, that hot summer’s day, my father walked into the kitchen, parched and perspiring after mowing the lawn, poured himself a glass of orange juice, and knocked it back. I suspect he was so thirsty that he didn’t realize at first – and then the taste must have hit him. From downstairs, I heard what had to have been the most violent spit take in history, then walked upstairs to find my father, clearly in shock, wide-eyed and red-faced, sitting behind a table spattered with month old orange juice.
I’d like to say it was a singular event but, sadly, this incident was proceeded by another surprisingly similar one months later. My dad always enjoyed a glass of iced water before bed. He’d pour himself a glass, drop in some ice cubes, then head into the adjoining room to watch the Carol Burnett Show, allowing the ice to melt, the water to chill. One night, I was walking past the kitchen when I heard the sound of something clinking in the darkness. I turned on the light and discovered our cat, paw deep in the water glass, attempting to snag an elusive ice cube. It was the most adorable thing and I made a note to mention it to my sister as I turned off the light and headed up to my room.
Later that night, I returned to find my father sitting in the kitchen in front of an empty water glass.
“Hey,”I said. “What happened to the water in that glass?”
“I drank it,”said my father.
“You drank it?” As if it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard and, really, my father should have known better. “The cat had it’s paw in that water.”
Needless to say, my father took it about as well as a mouthful of month-old orange juice.
And finally, there was the time my mother went away for a week, leaving my father to look after my sister and I. The day before her return, my father set about cleaning up, doing household chores that he’d probably never done before in his life. Like laundry. I recall walking downstairs and discovering him sweating as he labored, ironing the bath towels.
The bath towels!
And there was the time we went to the Win-Wah Buffet and he was trying to get that waiter’s attention.
But I’d best leave that one for another time.