Saturday, March 10, 2007

Run, Run Away, Hey!

Last night, we smelled something odd in Dad's and Darla's house and panic ensued. By "we" I mean that Dad noticed a strange smell and informed Darla that the oil tank might be empty. By "panic" I mean what followed was an absolutely cinematic exercise resembling nothing so much as water ballet. Cue the swimmers!

Oompah pah oompah pah! Oompah pah oompah pah!

My son-in-law Mr. Sasha and Dad's second wife Summer's third husband Clay waltzed through the kitchen. One of my sisters retrieved a flashlight. A kitchen full of women sipped white wine. Daria and Summer paged through the phone book. Where, oh where was the tank, the tank?

Oompah pah oompah pah! Oompah pah oompah pah!

The tank, the tank, the tank has seven inches. The charge, the charge, the charge for emergency delivery. We don't know what to do, and Daddy's asleep!

This morning, I realized that, dazzled by the glare off the tiaras, no one resolved the oil situation. Daria wanted to discuss our options with Daddy before we did anything. I had a sneaking suspicion that if he were healthy, every last one of his assembled relatives would have had Dad's boot print on her ass. So this morning, he and I conferred.

Tata: Clay determined the tank had seven inches of oil. The oil company felt we probably wouldn't need more oil before a scheduled delivery on Tuesday. We don't know your tank, though, or the house's normal oil consumption.
Dad: You didn't take care of this last night?
Tata: Daria wanted to ask you what you wanted to do.

Yes, I completely threw her under the bus.

Dad: When the oil runs out, the house is going to go stone cold. What's going to happen then?
Tata: It won't happen, Dad. We'll take care of it.
Dad: Do me a goddamn favor and go take care of this right now.

At the doorway, I pointed to my sister-in-law Bette and said, "Why don't you go in and say hello? He's in a great mood," which might've been a shitty thing to do if she'd just spent a full day on airplanes with two children under three, but I'm not a nice person and - damn it - nobody'd thrown her under the bus yet today. As she disappeared into the sick chamber, I turned on my heel and sent Mr. Sasha off to find the fast-moving and focused Daria, who stared at me briefly, swished her mane of spiral curly hair and marched off to find the oil company's phone number. I almost felt sorry for whoever told her no, she couldn't have whatever her heart desired - almost, but I'm not a nice person and you should've seen that coming.

It was about this time Dad got to see my brother Todd for the first time since Todd, Bette and the two children under three arrived late last night from Los Angeles. Earlier in the week, I worried Dad wouldn't live this long, but illness has not changed Dad's iron will and sense of badass decorum: there was no real way Dad was going to kick off before he talked with each of his children and saw the seven-month-old grandson who'd carry on the family name. Todd, who had not seen the parade of his sisters, aunt, cousins, and stepmothers burst into tears all day, every day, seemed to keep cool, and when he wasn't upset, gradually Todd's relatives drifted into the living room until the room was full and Dad seemed to be holding an audience. I didn't really notice what was happening at first, because I was sitting at the end of his bed, with my hand on Dad's leg. Daria was sitting on the other side of Dad's legs. Dara was sitting behind us on an adjacent couch. Todd's wife sat holding the baby on Dad's portable commode. Todd stood right behind her. Summer sat on the couch behind me. Miss Sasha sat at Dad's right hand, and Mr. Sasha sat next to Summer, whose new husband stood in the doorway. Auntie InExcelsisDeo sat on a recliner behind Daria. A friend of Daria's named Zippy sat behind Miss Sasha, who said, "Grandpa, please tell us the story of the Crisco and cornflakes."

This is the story of the morning Todd was born, and it is our favorite. Miss Sasha held a digital recorder. Todd set up a video recorder. If I'm especially lucky, I'll be able to post this video so you can see it, but until that time, here's what you must visualize: Dad tells us the story and it is somehow different from what I've ever heard because it is always different each time from what I've ever heard. We let the differences go and no one argues. The story is hilarious: on April 1, 1966, Todd was born at Stupid O'Clock in the morning and Dad came home from St. Peter's Hospital. When he woke up in the morning and sat up, he knew something was wrong when he put his feet down on his bedroom floor and felt a CRUNCH. I was three years and two months old. Daria was less than two. We'd decided to make Daddy breakfast and poured out every spice, powder and goo in the kitchen. I was the intrepid planner and climber, and no cabinet was left unopened and emptied. As two little Italian girls, Daria and I had long, dark hair, which stood up in cornflake-filled mohawks. Neighbors heard the screaming and rescued us. There was concerted cleaning and scouring and Grandma - the hairdresser - washed our hair with Spic-N-Span. Aren't you glad you stayed tuned to this channel?

This was all very funny, but somehow we got on the subject of baby brothers as science projects and Daria told a story Dad had never heard before about Daria and I replacing Todd's Halloween Chiklets with FeenAMints. As Daria told this story, a man I'd never seen before dragged a giant hose across Dad's lawn and disappeared behind Dad's forest of bonsai trees. And just as Daria remembered weighing FeenA Mints as Chiklets vs. trying to pass off chocolate stamped ExLax as Hershey's, the man dragged the hose back to a truck I couldn't see. So the heating problem was solved, and as Dad's father used to say: "Everybody out of the pool!"


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