Black heart

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.

28 thoughts on “Black heart

  1. Look at you, opening up, getting all personal and emotive! I love this post. The drama in that sulfur line made me laugh.I didn’t know you considered yourself unathletic. That you can cook is another revelation. I am also tickled how tossing flip flops at pups who NEED whacks is so disturbing for you. Daughter who by your description, seems to have gotten past your little temper tantarum, will still bombard you with love next fathers’ day. Not sure about your in laws. But, really, how much sleep lost on that count.

  2. Oh no. In laws can be such a pain. Dogs need training, maybe not the flip flop kind, but what you did wasn’t so bad and your daughter has forgiven you.Just tune the in laws out. We all think you’re a great guy xx

  3. Nimpipi: I can hardly wait for the repercussions from opening up. Should make for an interesting post. And I would never lay claim to being able to cook. This post should be evidence enough of that.Nurse: It sure SEEMED pretty bad at the time. Maybe not in retrospect but you should have been there.

  4. flip flop? the little bastard deserved correction. had you thrown a brick? perhaps overkill. had you grabbed him by the tail and held him over the hot grill? even i would have perhaps shared a stink eye with you…you cannot be responsible for what others think of you. let it bounce. the moment, not the flip flop. or the dog….

  5. daisy: Sound advice, as always. I know it was only a flip-flop but you should have heard the dog yelp! What a drama queen! And I know I can’t be held responsible for what they think but it would have made life much sweeter and certainly easier if I had had approval.

  6. I’d suggest that you give your self a BIG BREAK. You didn’t do anything wrong, you just saw it through their eyes. And thats not the way to look at life. Your wife and your daughter forgive you so let yourself off the hook.They’re the only ones that count.

  7. sugarpie, so far 5 (including me) of your pals have said, lighten up/forgive yourself, letitthefuckgo (that would be me), not to mention the fact that Mrs. Wife and your daughter have already. your inlaws and their white, hot hatred have been overcome by the love of your family and your pals! honey, you can’t change them. you can only change how YOU relate to them. xoxoxoxo

  8. Here’s the thing, some folk just don’t like you. Some folk just don’t like me. Why the fuck do we put so much energy into trying to change that? I can be performing in front of 100 people, 99 of them seemingly having a good time. Why am I so fixated on the one bollix not dancing, sitting there, arms folded, staring at me like I was the one who killed Bambi? Why do I do my best to get that one to like me when…. My friend, they didn’t like you before, they don’t like ya now. Nothing has changed. People love you, people don’t. Lovers gonna love, haters gonna hate.Dinnae worry yer arse pal, as a mutual pal might say. Yer a good man. Fuck the begrudgers! :¬)

  9. paulo: Well, thank you but I’ve always said I’d murder the punk who made my daughter cry. Naturally, I have to give myself a proper beating. Sav: Moments after it happened I had a dark thought: what else am I capable of? Sounds rediculious but who behaves like that? In front of their mother-in-law?! That’s just asking for trouble.

  10. map: I can only imagine what our pal would say about this! Something along the lines of, “You call THAT a violent outburst!?” I’m sure he’d get a chuckle out of it. I know how idiotic and impossible this sounds but I want everyone to like me. It makes getting out of bed easier.

  11. I think you are unnecessarily beating yourself up. you are one of the best fathers I know and besides no one is perfect. Until she says to you “over my dead body” and it happens I wouldn’t sweat it. Ask me some day I have been there…..MT

  12. Despite your brutally negative assessment of your culinary, parenting, and athletic skills – at least you write the hell out of a post. One of my faves so far.We’re having a pretty rough couple weeks, just days ahead of new baby arriving, 3 year old behaving like a LUNATIC, and house still in disarray – I’ve spent most of the weekend in various states of stress, frustration, and/or tears. And then I read your post. And I laughed my ass off, so hard in fact it made me cry (in a good way). Damn, I needed that. Thanks!All that being said, I was very touched by what you wrote. We all think we’re shitty parents, and we all look bad in front of our in-laws, particularly if they’re already predisposed to judging us negatively. For what it’s worth, I think you’re a pretty good guy (if you were a real asshole, you wouldn’t be worried about it). And Mrs. Wife has a good head on her shoulders, I know she picked you for some damn good reasons.

  13. you rarely use the word “motherfucker”. this post needs to be saved for “The Book”…..brilliant job [did you sprain anything writing it? 😉 ]

  14. Oh, I feel for you.I think every married bloke has felt that pain.But I can see it from another viewpoint.My lovely daughter got married.NO MAN is good enough for my wee angel. He can do no right.I will accept him, but never trust him.He has tried to steal away my wee girl.I will not forget.I will not forgive.I have a loaded 12 gauge always ready.

  15. That made delightful reading. Sorry:)You put too much stress on yourself. Would the world have ended if you and Mrs UB had shared the responsibility – and the girls even?If they don’t realise your worth that is their loss. The important ones are your wife and daughter. You are funny tho’!

  16. So far, apart from the wee Scot(who speaks as the father of a married daughter, so it doesn’t count.;-) )everyone here is telling you to give yourself a break.So …I think you are a mean, despicable bastard with a flip-flop and if I send the fare, will you please come down here[bring flip-flop] and chuck it at the yapster next door? Oh yes, please continue your wonderful posts.Maybe the in-laws need a laxative?

  17. MT: There’s no way she’ll ever say THAT! …will she?Merranie + JZ: Hold fast! You are navigating (and about to navigate) rough, rough waters. I found the whole baby show to be really tough going. The older they get, the more interesting and satisfying it is. But, personally, I found this baby stuff to be challenging. Good luck!TSB: I am hoping there will be no man pulling into my driveway looking for either daughter. If they’re both gay, that would be fine with me. I can handle another girl banging on my door but men are creeps. I should know. Pat: I’m glad you enjoyed it. I considered not posting it because it was so long and might find its way into my in-law’s email inbox (although I can’t imagine how).dinah: The good news is that I haven’t seen the dog dig any holes in the past week. So there’s my silver lining.

  18. I’m with you on holding fast…. baby/toddler/lil’ kid-dom has not been my cup o’ tea.Time for my inner child to help cultivate their inner adult and we’ll meet in the middle somewhere…oh, say about 8 or 9 years old, shall we?…..

  19. I’d have taken a bat to the dog and then turned to the in-laws and said “you gotta fucking problem? then wipe that stupid look off your coupon.” That’s just me of course and we all know i don’t give a shit about what anyone thinks really… though i find it funny about the baby thing, i really enjoyed my boyos when they were babies, now 3 and soon to be 6 it just keeps getting cooler but i’ve pretty much relished every minute of it… so yeah lighten up.

  20. JZ: Here’s a very recent example of why it’s worth it to dig down and hang in there. Last night, I was watching Charile Chaplin’s CIRCUS from 1928 on TMC. 10 Year-Old walks in, sits down. I explain what a silent movie is and how orchestras used to play live in movie houses. Then she gets pulled into the movie. Starts laughing her head off and says, “This is really interesting!” Best of all, she MEANT IT. It’s gratifying but it takes years for it to arrive. Babies are awful work. Sorry, girls. Kono, I just read that and laughed out loud in my office. We have open architecture so everyone looked up and stared. Thanks for that.

  21. I hate to laugh be when I read that line about meat on the grill I had to bust out…good luck with the in-laws, does pa in law play golf? mine does and it brings a wee smile to my black heart everytime I crush him on the course.Bowling – NO!cheers, Sausage…

  22. So seriously. What give the in-laws the right to be so judgemental and full of hate towards the man who loves their daughter to bits has given them two spectacularly cute and bright grandkids and who tries his damnedest to please them?A pox on them I say for being such narrow minded “traditionalists”. That you should care so much is just downright self-inflicted misery! You cannot change what someone thinks about you and worrying about them [or anyone else for that matter] not ‘liking’ you is totally futile so perhaps you should give up that line of thought and enjoy life when they are around! Who gives a crap if the dog got surprised and yelped when you hit a bull’s eye with your flip flip (they will always be “thongs” to me)? She needed to be caught in the act of misbehaving and you did it spot on. Good on you for perfect timing and excellent doggy discipline (the right timing the right force and no pain inflicted). The fact that Daughter cried and ran in the house actually makes her the diva not the dog! She needs to understand that the dog was [a] doing wrong [b] needed to be told that right away and [c] crying about it is not at all conducive to raising a well behaved dog.You write fantastic posts, UB and while I often get a chuckle out of them I also appreciate and respect your need to vent both about others AND yourself!! Now please excuse me while I go buy a new keyboard. Seems the tea (with cream and sugar) that I spilled on this thing a few months ago has caused both the right end bracket and the comma to quit functioning. I’ve figured out that Alt 41 gives me the bracket but I can’t be arsed to start using all the Alt functions for common punctuation!

  23. SF: I’m glad you had a chuckle. Mission accomplished. I’ll bet you wouldn’t have laughed so hard if you had been served dinner! My da-in-law plays golf. I, on the other hand, have never held a club.Ponita: This was never intended to be a referendum on my in-laws. Truth is they’re a side show in this post. The point is that I need to get a hold of my temper. And they’re not to be faulted for their traditional values any more than I should be faulted for my values. [Side note: The Republicans have co-opted the word “patriot.” If you don’t agree with them, you’re a traitor. The Dems own “Progressive.” If you don’t agree with them, you’re in decline. It’s all such horseshit. We need to liberate ourselves from this name-calling.]

  24. What a great post. My husband and I were married for three days before he told my in-laws. I will never be forgiven for that.My parents are ultra-conservative Mississippians. Hubby is an ultra-liberal New Yorker. You’d think that would be a recipe for disaster, but they think he’s the greatest. He’s the most highly regarded of their four son-in-laws. Weird.

  25. Afternoons like that, when things start going wrong, just snowball. But you care very much about your daughters, and that’s more important than little imperfections in trying to please people who are hardwired against you.Had no idea what “London broil” was. It was comforting to be told on Wikipedia that “the dish is unknown in London, England.” 🙂

  26. Cat: The fact that hubby is a liberal and your parents conservative and they get along is enough to give me hope for this country. And I’m not kidding. There’s not enough of that going around.Looby: You haven’t heard of London broil because the British are smart enough to stay away from a tough, flavorless cut of meat that’s difficult to cook.

  27. I shouldn’t have laughed, but what a little gem of a funny story. You have what a wise old priest I knew called a sensitive conscience. And this is the kind of thing we always do to ourselves in spite of ourselves. Blow our natural benevolence. Then agonize with remorse over the cruelty and scandal of it all. Dramaturgically though, and I often think of life as a cosmic grand opera, this situation was ripe for a comic denouement. Nobody was hurt, really, except a bit of propriety, including puppy’s whom I deeply suspect was more surprised than hurt. The inlaws’ indignation of course is their burden to bear, not yours. Go in peace. Grilled London Broil covers a multitude of sins.

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