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The Tee Shirt Incident

Updated on September 27, 2017

Thee Shirt

Dad, the man, the myth, the legend

My father was the most embarrassing exasperating person I’ve ever known. He was easily provoked into telling you what he thought of you good or bad, but mostly bad. Because it was very easy to get on his bad side he had few close friends.

After he was forced into early retirement he took to roaming the streets in search of what he thought were valuable artifacts as he rummaged through his neighbors garbage cans. Whenever my wife and I went reluctantly to visit my parents he would have his latest treasures on display all around the apartment. On this particular visit he was proudly wearing one of the works of art he had found in a dumpster outside the Safeway Super Market. He greeted us in a pink tee shirt with a picture of Madonna on the front and the words “Like a Virgin” emblazoned across it. I jokingly said dad, I hope you washed it. It’s clean he said, I got it in a rich neighborhood. Feel how soft it is, feel it! I believe you I said. He pulled the shirt out of his pants and held an end out in the direction of my wife. She recoiled in disgust.

We went into the living room where my mother was seated on the couch trying not to look ridiculous surrounded by religious figurines of all sizes standing in domed half shells. Where did you get all these statues I halfheartedly asked knowing full well he had made them in his abundant spare time? Do you like them he asked holding out a domed religious icon in my direction? Yes I said they’re very nice. What are you going to do with them all? How much do you think I can get for them he asked? My wife and I looked at each other with panic in our eyes.

The next words out of my mouth were going to be very important. I said, “Oh no you can’t sell them, they’re holy figures, it would be a sin”. He said you’re crazy, they’re not blessed, I should get at least fifteen or twenty dollars for that one you’re holding. Maybe you can take a few to work and see if you can sell them. Christmas is only a few weeks away; you should be able to sell them easy. Maybe you can sell some too he said while holding out a saintly figure in my wife’s direction. We both stood there speechless, totally without speech.

He packed the holy idols on the half shell in boxes and when we left I loaded them in the trunk of my car. When I got home I put the boxes in the back of the garage with the hope that my father would forget about his latest obsession and I’d never have to see the plaster figurines again.

It was the first Christmas that we were spending together as husband and wife and my new in-laws invited us over along with my parents for Christmas dinner. My wife and I arrived at their house and the place was filled with my wife’s relatives and friends. I felt a little out of place because all the men were wearing jackets and ties and I had neither. One of the friends that came to dinner was Connie Frances who was going out with my wife’s cousin at the time. I was pretty impressed. I mingled with the other guests while keeping a close eye on the front door.

My parents were late and I didn’t want them to have to walk in alone. I became distracted for a minute and suddenly there they were standing in the entrance to the room with there coats on staring forlornly at the crowd. They had come in unnoticed. I rushed over to them because my father could get a tad unruly if ignored for any length of time. I arrived at my father’s side in time to keep him from yelling a profanity and walking out. That would undoubtedly have made for a bad first impression. I helped my mother off with her coat and took a present she was holding from her and put it on a table with all the other gifts. As I turned back around to take my fathers coat the room suddenly went quiet and all eyes were staring in our direction. I noticed my wife with her hand over her mouth and I knew that couldn’t be good.

There stood my father proud as a peacock in his pink Madonna tee shirt with “Like a Virgin” emblazoned across the front. I just stared at him shaking my head in disbelief hoping that somehow lightening would intervene and end my time on earth. That was the beginning of an evening in hell. He strolled around the room with my mother in tow making sure everyone got to see and hear about how he had stumbled across this stylish find, the Madonna tee shirt.

We managed to eat dinner without further incident mainly because my father was usually on his best behavior when he was getting a free meal. After dinner my mother in-law began opening the gifts that were put on the table by the guests. Connie Frances gave a beautiful Waterford cut glass punch bowl with twelve matching cups. Unfortunately my parent’s gift immediately followed hers. I watched hoping for the best but the best turned into the worst. My mother in-law tore open the wrapping paper revealing a box that I recognized immediately. Oh my god. Is there no end to this hell that I’m in? Yes it was another Madonna, this time on the half shell. As she took it out of the box my fathers hand made plaster Madonna fell out of the half shell and broke in two when it hit the floor. My mother in-law picked it up and apologized to my parents for her clumsiness. No need to worry said my father; I can fix it and if anybody wants to buy one I’ll knock five dollars off the price.

Comments greatly appreciated.

©2012 Lee Zett

Connie Frances


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      ralph 4 years ago from wantagh, ny

      Wow....tears are streaming down our cheeks, as I read this one out loud. Actually we're still laughing as I write this. Your humor and prose are fabulous. Can' t wait for the book, or movie - that is lurking inside of you.

    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks Teri for reading and commenting.

    • profile image

      Teri 6 years ago

      Nicely done, I really enjoyed it and I can really relate.

    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 6 years ago from New York

      Nice read Loren. I enjoyed the part about the regifting.

    • profile image

      Loren Edlin 6 years ago

      I do find it a very interesting story and the best part was the Madonna Tee shirt. I do feel that you and your father has some differences but the artistic part of your father and how proud he is with his work is pretty much up your alley. Regifting is not you but just the fact your father wanted to make a buck by selling his figurines is interesting. Great story and I realy enjoyed taking my time and reading this. Good job.

    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks Glenn for taking the time to read my Hubs

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I don't know whether to consider this incident funny or sad. Whatever it is you felt at the time, you are not at all like him. Funny thing is that I had been watching a new show on TV with two brothers who find old junk and resell it. I thought if that show when I read about your Dad with the T-shirt and figurines. Well done, voted up.

    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 6 years ago from New York

      I have actually reached the age my father was when this incident happened. I'll have to remind myself to ask my children (and Grand children) if I've gone over the edge yet. Thanks for your comments.---Lee

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 6 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Your father reeks of sincerity, Lee. Don't be surprised if your kids find you the same some day. We all got to pay our dues, ya know! LOL!

      My father had very little education, especially in how others regarded the right thing to say or do. But people loved him so much because he was so sincere. Having served during world war II-D-Day, Omaha Beach, no less, Battle of the Bulge, freeing the holocaust camps, and so much terror and death in the process.

      I suppose he had already seen life's worst. I could not fault him for making such trivial faux pas in his social life. The attendance at his funeral a few years ago was the most I've ever witnessed for a common-and I use the word proudly as he would-man.

      This doesn't lessen the humor caused by his statements on occasion, but he didn't care. I miss him terribly.

      Sorry to wax so lengthy on my comments Lee, but your hub struck a pleasant nerve....or memory. :)


    • Leesleez profile image

      Leesleez 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks so much for your input.

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      Barbara Striegel 6 years ago

      Oh my goodness. I'm from Queens and have met quite a few people who could curl your hair, so to speak.

      The picture that was created was great. You could feel the recoil as dad walked in the room and took off his jacket and one never wanted anyone to open his present.