The Tee Shirt Incident
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 Waldbaums 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 uncle 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 second 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.
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©2012 Lee Zett