For, lo, these past 14 years, my mother- and father-in-law have, basically, tolerated my existence. They see that I adore their daughter and love their granddaughters more than life itself and for that I get a pass. They’re pleasant enough to me. We have an amicable relationship. But I’m fairly certain that if, God forbid, anything ever happened to Mrs. Wife and I, not only would I never hear from them again, they’d probably take me to court and litigate to get their name back. [For recent arrivals, I took her name when we got married.]
In the beginning…
I never asked my father-in-law for permission to marry Mrs. Wife. The thought never occurred to me! Who the hell asks for permission anymore?! (Actually, my brother-in-law did, that boy scout. I’d love to resent him for it but he’s one of the nicest, funniest people I’ve ever met so I can’t.). They are olde world traditionalists and it rubbed them the wrong way. A tone was set that hasn’t changed much over the years. I tend to walk on egg shells around them. I probably always will. It’s exhausting. In my defense, my mother-in-law was recently lamenting the fact that because of a demographic shift here in the U.S., there are now more minority babies being born than white babies. So there‘s that to take into consideration.
They came over on Father’s Day for dinner. All I wanted was for everything to be perfect. I wanted the food to be perfect. I wanted the conversation to be pleasant. I wanted The Daughters to display perfect table manners (no picking up food with their hands!) and I wanted the dog to leave them the hell alone. (My mother-in-law doesn’t like dogs.) It’s nearly impossible to pull off perfection, particularly when you’re as deeply flawed an individual as I am.
I cooked a London broil on the grill. I’ve done this dozens of times. It’s not that hard. But I looked at this thick piece of meat, it looked back at me, and I knew it was going to be a fight to the death. I slapped that motherfucker on the grill and it just would not cook properly. I weighed my options; serve a dried up, burnt hunk of shoe leather or serve a piece of road kill.
All the side dishes were ready so I took it into the kitchen and carved that bad boy up. I wouldn’t say it was raw necessarily, but it wasn’t done. But once you carve into a piece of meat, you can’t put it back on the grill. You’ll torch it. I threw a childish hissy fit directed at my bride, who did nothing whatsoever to deserve it. I put it on a platter and marched out to the patio. Judgment Day.
Outside, the dog was being a puppy. She’s only, what?, seven months old? What can you expect? Running around in circles, under the table, jumping up and being a pain in the ass. When I sat down to eat, I was stewing in my raw meat juices and trying to watch every word that came out of my mouth.
The dog, about 25 feet away, started digging a hole in my grass. Dogs are genetically predisposed to dig. They can‘t help themselves. But I don’t want my yard torn up and yelling “STOP!“ didn’t do the trick so I lost my cool, took off my flip-flop and tossed it at her.
I have no athleticism. ZERO. I have, literally, never played a game of basketball, football or baseball in my life. I never learned how and no one bothered to teach me. I used to bowl a decent game but not anymore. (Does that even count? Bowling?) When I throw, I look like someone having an epileptic fit.
That damn flip-flop sailed across the yard and connected with laser, pinpoint accuracy. Best throw of my life. The dog yelped. I didn’t hurt her, but it sure scared the hell out of her. My beautiful 10-Year Old Daughter, whom I would give up my rotten life for, burst into tears. I hurt her dog. What a man I was (am). She got up from the table and ran into the house weeping. Mother- and father-in-law saw the whole sordid episode. Dinner and a show.
Then I felt it. It landed like a rouge wave wrecking the shoreline. It came from the dawn of time, through wars, petulance and across scorched earth that reeked of sulfur. It laid waste to civilizations sparing no innocents. Down to New Jersey and from the other side of the patio table where my in-laws sat: hatred. White, hot, hatred.
Of course, I apologized. Since then, the dog, my daughter and wife seem to have forgiven me. Daughter and dog run up to me when I walk in the door from work at night. Mrs. Wife still has dinner waiting for me on the table. But at night when I lie awake in bed staring into the dark, I am haunted by these images. I will be for the rest of my days. What kind of monster throws a flip-flop at a little girl’s dog and makes her cry? Happy Father’s Day, asshole.
Don’t call me daughter
not fit to.
The picture kept
will remind me.
P.S. The meat continued to cook while I carved it and it was actually not that bad. Of course.