It generally accepted knowledge that as people age they become more rigid about some things. It’s not uncommon to hear your friends mention a visit to the family homestead along with something like “Oh, you know, We can’t do much about grandpa hating Koreans. He’s pretty set in his ways…”
My fathers particular hang up as he’s gotten older, fortunately, doesn’t have anything to do with other ethnicity’s but with profanity. He never swore a huge amount when I was growing up but he never had a problem uttering a heartfelt “SHIT” during tax season. Maybe it’s because he has returned to the genteel deep south where certain language just isn’t used in public he’s now forsworn four letter words. All I know is that when I slough casually through my parents house in a visit to New Orleans and mutter “Where are my fucking sunglasses…?” I’m sharply reprimanded from the other room. And then there are the emails I get after writing something new:
“Very good. Could be in a newspaper if not so much swearing.”
But his new refusal to curse coupled with his ever present calm, unflappable demeanor make the occasions he snaps all the sweeter.
On vacation to Florida this summer we pulled into a Chevron somewhere in candy colored tourist town of Panama City. We’d driven through on our way to the family farm in Alabama so Dad could point out where the giant waterslide owned by one of his uncles that he would work at in the summers as a boy. His tour of water parks, 60’s hotels and giant plaster of paris sea life finished I’d returned to reading my book in the back seat. My head snapped up though when our CRV lurched to a halt.
“What is he DOING?” My father said angrily.
Craning around the front seat head rest on the passenger side where my mother sat I could see a Buick the size of a yacht had pulled into the row of pumps haphazardly, effectively blocking Dad from pulling through to the other pumps.
“Well, waitaminute, Chris.” Said my mother. “He’s probably going to move…”
But the car did not move. It stayed. Skewed at a diagonal the Buick squatted fatly, resolutely, in the way.
Dad pulled up in an effort to try the pumps on the other side only to find they were out of service. Mom tried to convince him that the Buick would still move. It did not. An ancient man slowly rolled himself out of the drivers seat. He looked to be a veteran of both World Wars and the giant trucker cap with the navy logo perched on his wobbling head seemed to confirmed this. The man inched towards the pump and struggled to remove the nozzle.
Strangled noises began coming out of my father.
“What…FFFFFFF…WHAT FFFFFF… What is this Ffffudgeing…FFFFF…” Dad fought desperately to find some word that started with an “F” other than “Fuck” to articulate his rage. I sat up further in my seat. I knew something delightful was about to happen.
“This…Fornicating…” Dad floundered and then gave in. “WHAT IS THIS FUCKING IDIOT DOING?”
A small squeal of glee escaped my lips. Dad wasn’t done.
“LOOK at him! Look at him! He’s wearing one of those goddamned hats! Men wear those hats and and I swear their testicles SHRINK.” Dad threw the car into reverse and managed to back into the last and only working pump. “I hope I NEVER get that old. SHIT.” He spat.
“This is the best vacation of my life.” I thought.
Dad turned to my mom “I hope he didn’t have kids cuz’ he FUCKED the gene pool.”
“GLORIOUS.” I thought.
Dad shoved open his door and filled the tank. When he was done he strode in to the store to pay and mom and I let loose. We managed to get our hysterics under control by the time he got back in the car.
He continued as he tried to back the car up, “I mean, SERIOUSLY why would you even…OH OK AND NOW THAT GUY IS PARKED BEHIND ME AND HE’S TALKING ON HIS CELL PHONE.”
“Calm down, Chris.” Mom soothed and dug through her purse. “Do you want mint? Or a Pez?”
“Gimme a Pez.” Dad held out his hand.
“Ok. Pink or Purple flavor?”
Mom unwrapped the two packages of mini-Pez and dumped them into his hand. He crunched, I giggled, Mom ate a mint and the three of us waited for the Buick to shudder out of the gas station lot.
I can’t wait until our road trip to Oregon next spring.