- Family and Parenting
The Most Negative Man in North America
(A related story is http://keithmitchell5.hubpages.com/hub/Not-His-Brothers-Keeper Please read.)
My step-dad was arguably the most negative man in North America. I say “was” not because he’s since deceased, but because he has mellowed considerably during the past fifteen years, perhaps largely aided by prescription pharmaceuticals. But back in his heyday, he could bring you down with the best of them. To Marvin, not only wasn’t the glass half full, or even half empty; the glass had been shattered and left on the floor for him to clean up. His go-to emotional state can best be described as quietly disgusted.
Now when I tell you this, it’s not a latent plea for pity. I’m actually glad Marvo was what he was. It provides stories to tell and funny memories. I’m not scarred by it and I don’t resent it. My first clue that Marvin (we never called him anything but his first name) wasn’t a beacon of positive energy came in the fourth grade when, for some reason, I decided to try to draw the skyline of Manhattan, which was included in my Health textbook from school. In pencil, I sketched the various towers and landmarks and after several hours, presented my work to the Marvinator.
Marv looked non-plussed by my admittedly pedestrian work, as if he had unexpectedly been handed a urine specimen. “It won’t win any awards,” he dourly proclaimed, snapping his newspaper shut and then open again in rapid fire succession. I stood there silently crestfallen. I had been “Marvinated” for the first time. It would not be the last.
The thing about Marvin was that he was virtually impossible to impress. I ran up to him upon hearing that Elvis Presley had died and breathlessly shared the shocking news. Marvin remained sanguine. He leisurely picked at his fingernails and then said, “Don’t run up to me and tell me when somebody dies. Everybody dies. Only run up to me and tell me if somebody just keeps on living and never dies.” Once again, I stood silently cowed. You couldn’t argue with logic like that.
One evening, my brother, sister and I were engrossed in an especially maudlin episode of Little House on the Prairie. We had invested fifty-five minutes in the episode, along with considerable emotional involvement, when Marvin came home from work, slammed the front door and summarily pulled the television set's plug out of the wall socket.
“If I want cancer and misery, I’ll go down to St. Francis Hospital,” he announced with some rancor, as the television set faded from blue to black. It was a masterstroke of negative energy. Three kids sat stunned, frozen, with our mouths open. We never found out how the episode ended, but a cow was about to have calves when Marvin pulled the plug on it.
Marvin asked me one Saturday afternoon what I was watching on television.
“Minnesota versus Iowa, college basketball,” I said.
“In every game, one team is bound to lose,” he proclaimed, grimly, dejectedly, as he slowly exited the room. It was a classic Marvinism.
He was a true master in the art form of negativity. In fact, I recall going to the Art Institute of Chicago one summer with the family and gawking at a huge portrait by Andy Warhol. It was a painting of a flower, actually, with many vibrant colors and the typical Warhol pop-art treatment. A very impressive sight up close.
Marvin stood there squinting through his tinted eyeglasses in apparent displeasure, arms crossed. He seemed pained, and then muttered “Uh-uh, mister,” and walked away from art forever.
I once pooped in the backyard. I know, I know. This wasn’t a wise or sanitary move. Marvin was bound to object mightily. I was looking at the stars on a warm spring night when nature called. It was so beautiful and serene outside that I decided if nature calls, why not just take care if it in nature. So I did. Then I resumed my star-gazing and forgot completely about my indiscretion.
The next morning, my mom said, “I think we had a bear in our backyard.” Apparently I had been consuming a lot of grains and she’d seen the defecation while gardening. It wasn’t likely that a bear had actually encroached (and crapped) on our property given that we lived in suburban Indianapolis and had a fenced yard.
“That was no bear,” I said nonchalantly, in between gulps of Fruit Loops.
Marvin pulled down his newspaper. This couldn’t end well.
“Let me get something straight,” he said, sotto voiced. “You took a dump in the backyard when there are two working toilets less than 25 feet away?”
“Yes,” I answered. “But the stars were so beautiful that I didn’t want to come inside.”
“I don’t give a good Goddamn if the moon was exploding while you were out there. Do your business inside from now on!” His voice was unusually animated. Marvin usually stayed calmly negative. My fecal transgression had nearly pushed him over the edge.
He got up and said with utter disdain, “I’m going back to bed.” It was 9 am. He had just gotten up, but couldn’t face a day that started with me shitting in the backyard.
“And I’ll tell you one more thing, mister,” he closed. “You’re not going to put that poop in my new garbage cans.”