When my husband’s family sits down and tells tales about growing up, it sounds like they are summing up old Leave it to Beaver episodes. They most they ever got up to were hijinks – even shenanigans would be stretching it. The one story that involves even a touch of violence involves my own husband (his sister, and an aborted Christmas shopping trip), and even that was pretty tame.
When my family sits down to tell stories, they involve mistaken identities, secret lives, ghosts, UFOs, belly dancers, and stalkers.
This brings me around to this past Sunday. My parents, the husband, the two monsters and I all attended a birthday party for some extended family. During lunch, while the kids played indoor kickball I decided it was a perfect time to ask my dad some delicate and probing questions about his past. It seemed like as good a time as any, really. (Some things must remain private, even on this blog but, to those of you who like soup – the answer is yes – and three.) However, during this inquiry, some startling revelations come to the foreground.
First and most intriguing – my father may actually be my uncle.
While this may appear to be a tale ripped straight out of a crappy daytime talk show, it is actually much more innocent than it seems. It’s not like my mom cheated on my dad with my uncle. It’s just that she might have actually been shagging my uncle all along. See – that’s much less disturbing. I know you are picturing a family moment that must have been fraught with tension and high drama. This is obviously quite the revelation. Instead, I actually had to call my husband over because I couldn’t stop laughing and I needed someone else to listen to the insanity.
You see, when my father and his identical twin brother were born, my grandmother could not tell them apart. For months, she kept their baby bracelets on as their only means of identification. One day, during a doctor visit, he removed them. From that day forward, no one ever had any idea which one was which. Eventually, one name stuck to one boy and one name stuck to another, but it’s really only a 50/50 chance that the right twin wound up with the right name. Considering that they could (and did) have passed for each other well into middle age, I have no doubt that as infants, it would have required CSI-level of forensics to differentiate between them. My poor, slightly addled grandmother never stood a chance.
Then I found out that my dad was actually a long rifleman for the SWAT team.
This one was not a surprise to my husband. Not because my dad took him outside while we were courting and had a talk with him while he cleaned his guns, which would have been funny but completely out of character, but because we have a picture of my dad standing in full gear holding said gun. Before you think I’m a complete idiot, his vest didn’t say SWAT, I can’t tell a toy gun from a real one, let alone the type and caliber like my husband can (he once worked for a major gun maker) and the word SWAT was never once mentioned in my home. Not once. Not ever. I always thought that picture was sort of the cop equivalent of a school yearbook picture – you know, they put you in all the gear just for the photo. My parents believed he should leave his job at work and so it was never, ever discussed. Imagine how much more entertaining dinner would have been if he had told us true stories about his day! Instead, all I ever heard was that he spent his day washing trucks. While this was true to some degree, the “trucks” in questions were all crash/fire rescue vehicles at a major international airport – and he probably was just cleaning the blood and soot off the tires.
The final revelation about my father related directly to me. The house I grew up in was an old Cape Cod, with the master bedroom downstairs and two, small bedrooms up in the dormered attic. I had one, my sister the other. When I was 12, I abandoned my bedroom, kept my clothes in laundry baskets in the basement, and slept exclusively on the couch in the family room. To this day, I have no memory of what led me to flee my own room. So, during the birthday party, I asked my parents. My mother remembered that I told them I saw a demon with red eyes. When I asked what led them to believe such a strange story, my father, a tad sheepishly replied,
“That’s because I accidentally let it in.”
Well of course, that explains everything.
You see, one night, my father heard someone open the gate outside the house, re-latch it, walk up to the front door, and knock. My dad, thinking someone was at the door, opened it. No one was there. But after that night, I started to report lots of strange activity on the second floor of the house. As I had spent my entire youth seeing shit that would make straight hair curl (and they had always believed me), he soon realized this particular problem was his fault and they let me sleep on the couch. However, we did move out by the time I was 13.
It was, in my family, a logical answer to a logical question. My mother’s only follow-up comment is that she keeps hoping to see the house on Ghost Hunters one day.
So, that was the conversation I had with my father; mistaken identity, secret lives, and demons. And this was just during lunch! The chat I had with my mother about UFOs, stalkers, and belly dancing waited at least until we had cake. You my friends, will just have to wait for the next blog.