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“F***ing son of a bitchin’ bastard.
- Charlie, regarding computer

Pots, pans, potatoes, and pie were all strewn about the kitchen counter – intermingled with Dad’s laptops and random computer parts – in preparation for an early thanksgiving feast. I could tell Charlie was eager to dig into turkey with all the fixins, though he masked it well beneath the usual LOUD shouting, cursing (see above quote), and tinkering with his latest eBay acquisition.

There are few things Dad enjoys more than a thanksgiving banquet. Unlike Mexican food (see Charlie’s Top 5 Worse Restaurants list) it complies with his strict definition of a traditional dinner – meat, potatoes, and a veg – with the added bonus of gravy, cranberry sauce, and of course pumpkin pie for dessert. While it would run a very close second to his favorite homemade food of BBQ grilled hamburgers, he does seem to have a keener appreciation for the added effort of the bigger meal.

And considering what I have to put up with to make this, or any meal for that matter, he damn well should.

Motivation Mantra

Before embarking on this culinary adventure, for me the added effort requires a great deal of motivation. Lucky for me that there’s nothing more inspiring than listening to Charlie repeatedly break out the f-bomb from five feet away. In fact, between his ranting, that annoying “dink” sound from his constant keyboard and/or mouse button clicking, and my waning tolerance for all of the above, cooking for Charlie has become a bit like attempting a 12 Step Program:

Me: “Give me the serenity to…”

Dad: “(Dink) How many times do I have to sign in, you a**hole?”

Me: “…accept the things I cannot change about Dad…”

Dad: “(Dink) Well, COME ON!”

Me: “…the courage to put up with the things I can, and the wisdom to…”

Dad: “(DINK! DINK! DINK!)”

Me: “I WILL BEAT YOU IF YOU DON’T STOP CLICKING THAT DAMN BUTTON!”

This Is Not A Recipe

In keeping with the 12-Step theme, the following is Natina’s 12-Step Guide To Turkey Dinner for Dad. *Please note: Unlike salt, trial and error is not optional.

To start, you’ll need some ingredients. As to what kind, I’m sure you’ll figure it out as we go along.

  1. Ignore Dad’s complaints about a malfunctioning hard drive and arrange 1.5 lbs of turkey breast in a pan (’cause a whole turkey takes too long and is too friggin’ big for just two people). Season with olive oil, lemon, rosemary, garlic, and onion. Oh, and don’t forget the Johnny Seasoning Salt. It goes with everything. Add some sliced carrots and celery too for the hell of it and toss it all into a 325°F oven for 45-60 minutes.
  2. Slip wine to help block out the cursing, then peel and cube the potatoes. Add to a pot with water and heat to a boil. Simmer over medium heat until they’re soft, but not mushy. When ready, mash and mix with butter, salt, pepper and milk.
  3. While Dad abuses a Toshiba, save some time by following the microwave directions on the box of Stove Top Stuffing.
  4. Realize that you forgot to pick up cranberry sauce at the store.
  5. Don’t tell Dad that you forgot the cranberry sauce.
  6. Gravy packet says it only takes like a minute to make, the same amount of time Dad claims it’ll take for me to help him locate the missing drivers (whatever that means). Awesome.
  7. Refill your wine glass.
  8. When the turkey juices run clear, reduce heat and toss all completed food items in the oven to keep warm while waiting for everything else to finish. Thank God, we’re nearly there.
  9. Debate about making corn because after 45 minutes the carrots are still hard. Remove carrots from the oven and sauté in a frying pan with butter until absolutely perfect. Then, when Charlie starts in on his most recent grievance with eBay, leave the room just long enough for the carrots to burn.
  10. Make corn.
  11. Now that everything is done, take the food out of the oven, and burn yourself… twice.
  12. After administering first aid to your burns, dish out and serve on the crowded kitchen counter. “DINNER’S READY, DAD!”

Seconds

Mentally and physical exhausted from all the hazards and Dad’s constant pre-dinner background noise, I pushed my empty plate away while Dad rushed back for more side dishes. “Good stuff!” he declared with a satisfied grin on his gravy smudged palate. It’s not often he goes back for seconds so this was a major compliment to the chef, i.e. me. He even took more stuffing, which he usually prefers to scowl at from afar.

It was a tough job, but a good meal if I do say so myself. I had to wonder, however, was the hour-long, stress-filled effort really worth it?

There’s Always Room for Pie

 

Once Charlie was finished stuffing himself silly, I gathered up all the plates, made a half-assed attempt at washing some of the dishes, then threw everything else in the dishwasher. Turning to Dad to advise him of dessert, I said: “Don’t forget, there’s pumpkin pie for later.” Despite the fact that he was clearly full, Dad quickly replied with gusto, “Oh! How much later?”

I had to laugh. Charlie can be rude, demanding, sexist, and so utterly frustrating you can find yourself at your wit’s end. But dammit, he does manage to redeem himself again and again with his oblivious attitude and inadvertent humor. So I decided to cut him some slack and a big chuck of pie (with a side of ice cream) before calling it a day. I have to accept that Dad will not change. The best I can do is to try to maintain my serenity, ignore what I can, and cherish the wisdom that one day I will be moving out.

Photo credit: juptierimages.com

Photo credit: jupiterimages.com

The following is a dramatization of a phone conversation Charlie had recently with his brother, Elmer. The entire dialogue is Dad’s side of the call (since I obviously couldn’t hear Elmer’s side) and is a fairly typical example of every conversation my dad has with any of our relatives who live back in North Dakota.

There are three things worth noting before we begin.

1. Dad is deaf and he will not admit it or use his hearing aids. Yes, he does in fact own hearing aids, but refuses to ever wear them which leads to a lot of SHOUTING as well as blaring TVs and music in the Schulz household.

2. Whenever someone asks how he’s doing, the standard Charlie answer usually involves “cheating death,” “death is coming eminently” (a claim he’s been making for the last 40 years or so), or “one day is worse than the next.”

3. Every conversation with relatives must at some point include an obituary briefing; a rundown of who’s dead, who’s dying, and how long he has or can out live them.

So with that, we set our scene:

The phone rings twice. Dad ignores it. The answering machine kicks in. No message.

BEAT

The phone again rings twice. The answering machine kicks in. Then Dad recognizes the number on the Caller ID just barely quick enough to grab the phone before Uncle Elmer hangs up in disgust.

“Hello?”

Hello?”

“What?”

“HELLO?!”

“WHAT?”

“Who’s that?”

“SPEAK UP!!!”

“ARRRRRGH!”

“ELMER!”

“Oh! Is that you?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure it isn’t Fudd…?”

“Is that’s right? Well what the hell!”

“What’s that?”

“WHAT?”

“Oh, we’re just livin’ one day to the next.”

“Ah, shit. Who knows?”

“Yeah, we got the kid here for the summer.”

“HUH?”

“I don’t know.”

“No, she’s not working. We had some nice hamburgers last night though.”

“Yeah.”

“How’s Mott? Dead?”

“Yeah. Dead, eh?”

“That’s it?”

“Anymore dead people there?”

“Blotty?”

“Oh yeah?”

“Ah, shit.”

“Well, that’s the end of that.”

“Anything else to say there?”

“Nothing, yeah?”

“Okay then. Good enough.”

“Yup. Bye.”

winterrose31.deviantart.com

Two young children, a boy and girl. Neither could be older than five or six and both blond like the Swedish Bikini Team. They live next door and were playing ball on the street in front of their house while I sat on our front porch reading a book. I could hear them talking and laughing, as kids will do; kicking, shouting, footsteps…

…and suddenly, silence.

Turning in the direction I expected them to be, I was initially taken aback by the sight of them, lurking at the end of our driveway. There they stood, like two wily horror movie villains, with Charlie’s car standing between us, their faces tinted green from the glare of the vehicle’s back window. No sound, just a static and suspicious gaze.

They looked like something out of Children of the Corn.

“What the hell are they doing?” I thought to myself.

Their vacant stares then seemed to develop into concern followed by an argument of sorts which went something like this:

“We have to get the ball.”

You get the ball.”

“No, you get it!”

Finally, without explanation or agreement, they both turned away from our driveway and ran home.

“Did what I think happen, just happen?” I wondered.

Did these two little blond kids accidentally kick their ball into my dad’s yard and were too afraid to retrieve it? Is this what Charlie has become? The scary old man in the creepy house with the un-mowed lawn? When I’m not here, do the neighborhood children dare each other to ring our doorbell and run away? I had to investigate to be sure. Continue Reading »

sethart80.deviantart.com

If you’ve already reviewed the list of the Top 5 Best Restaurants according to Charlie, you know that my dad is not a picky eater. Indulging himself with greasy Ivar’s fish and chips, McDonald’s Big Macs, and gravy drenched Denny’s cuisine is not exactly the makings of a culinary expert nor a healthy diet for that matter. However, for all his fat-injected, cholesterol-elevating, artery-clogging cravings, Dad also has his standards.

Don’t get me wrong; he’ll still clean his plate, but if anything – from the staff, silverware, or food – doesn’t live up to Charlie’s strict guidelines of taste and acceptability, he’ll find a way to bitch about it from appetizer to dessert.

What follows is Charlie’s Top 5 Worst Restaurants. They are, without a doubt, a selection of the last places you would ever want to take him for dinner or even suggest for a special occasion. His reaction could be potentially anywhere from a frown and a head shake to an open display of 3-year-old tantrum-like hostility.

You have been warned. Continue Reading »

jupiterimages.com

If there’s anything Dad likes more than computers, it’s food. And not just any kind of food… well, actually no, that’s not entirely true. Charlie will eat anything you put in front of him. In fact, I remember distinctly a time when I was dishing out ice cream after dinner and when my sister, Leigh, complained about the brand or flavor, the following short dialogue ensued:

Me: “I scooped the same kind of ice cream for Dad and Dad isn’t complaining.”
Leigh: “Dad wanted to eat the scoop of ice cream that fell on the carpet.”
Me: “Touché, Leigh, touché.”

So, needless to say, Charlie is not exactly a picky eater, but he is a tough critic. If he likes something, he becomes overly animated about it. Sometimes he’ll even request it the next day and momentarily sulk if there are no leftovers. And what happens if Dad doesn’t like his food? Well, because he grew up in the generation of “Clean Your Plate!” (as did I by proxy) he’ll still eat it, but with the face of a 10-year-old being forced to eat his broccoli and brussels sprouts.

Over the summer, I’ve been trying to get Charlie to eat healthier.

  1. Sodium-filled TV dinners are replaced by fish and organic, free range meats and eggs.
  2. Greasy potato chips as a snack, substituted with apple sauce and carrot sticks with hummus dip.
  3. Sugary, frosting-covered donut desserts tossed out in favor of fruit smoothies with flax seed and pro biotic yogurt (the ingredients of which I have to repeatedly explain before he’ll agree to drink it).

This is a man who, when left to his own devices, nukes an entire package of bacon (sans plastic) in the microwave until it’s black and eats it all in one sitting. He needs help.

I’ve tried to explain that he must take better care of himself. His blood pressure is through the roof, he’s already had a couple heart attacks AND a quadruple bypass. Instead of eating the shite he chooses to eat on his own, he might as well have doctors shove a scoop of lard and a dozen maple bars into his arteries and get it over with!

Nevertheless, despite my best efforts, protests, and fruit smoothies to the contrary, Charlie still has his preferences and a routine to maintain. If I or my sisters aren’t cooking or it happens to be the day of the week Dad has penciled in a specific meal, there are five places he’s willing to patronizing (the consumer-type of patronizing rather than the condescending-type he’s more prone to). Continue Reading »

jupiterimages.com

Having a garage sale, yard sale, boot sale, or whatever you wanna call it sale is a great way to get rid of accumulated crap. It’s also, I discovered one warm weekend in July, a great way to learn more about my dad, Charlie, and the wacky people interested in buying both his and our assorted crap.

I made the signs, set up and wiped down all the tables – which had been stored outside for some unexplained reason and thus were covered in dirt and spider webs – and woke up bright and early with my sister, Leigh, on a Saturday morning to mind the shop set up in Dad’s garage for the next two days. We were already at a disadvantage; exhausted from staying up ridiculously late the night before to organize and then drive around under the cover of darkness (to hide our shame) putting up the signs in the neighborhood. We were also forced several times in the days leading up to the big sale to assure Charlie this was indeed a good idea and that having strangers looking through our crap would in no way hamper his ability to replace the crap we’d hopefully get rid of with more worthless crap in the future.

Not surprisingly, the 8-10 computer towers (from Dad’s assortment of 100+) we put out were not popular. While they were fully refurbished with updated components and boosted memories, they still physically looked like freak computer towers made from the parts of lesser computer towers. Even one techie nutter/customer, who gleefully explained the humble progression of his own tower addiction by saying, “One, two, three storage units later…” chuckled at the sight of them and turned his back in snobbish disgust.

But the laptops? They were another story entirely. Continue Reading »

Pet Peeve #5: Empty toilet roll. Why do you hate me so much?

When you live with someone long enough, they can do things, even little things, to really get on your nerves.

Examples:

Growing up with my two sisters we fought over clothes, bathroom time, and whose turn it was to do the dishes.

Husbands are also a great source of pet peeves; never refilling the toilet paper roll, leaving wet towels on the furniture, and flossing their teeth anywhere but in the bathroom.

And my late mother, she HATED when you’d read a book without a light on behind you. If you really pissed her off Mom would usually react one of two ways:

  1. Respond sarcastically to questions like, “Where are you going?” with, “Crazy, that’s where!”
  2. The silent treatment.

Mom was a pro at “2.”

These pet peeves and others are minor inconveniences we put up with every day. Whether it’s finding toenail clippings or coffee stains on the counter for the 1,876,435 time, we supposedly love these people and are willing to bite our lip because we know their good qualities far out weigh the bad. Besides, none could be so irritating as to cause a mental break, right?

Then comes Charlie.

Pet Peeve #4: Drama Queens and/or generally anyone on Reality TV.

I love my dad. He’s often thoughtful, funny, and tolerates me eating his food and using his washing machine while I’m visiting in exchange for home cooked meals, cleaning, and, I assume, my sparkling personality. That said, however, Charlie also has some seriously grating aspects to his personality that can be beyond irritating and could nearly drive a sane person to tears.

Perhaps that’s what was causing Mom to go ‘crazy’?

I’ve begged him, I’ve pleaded. Still no change in his behavior.

“Dad, could you please turn the music down?”

“DAD. I’m sitting right here. You really don’t need to yell.”

“Could you PLEASE STOP leaving your wires everywhere? Someone is going to trip over them and kill themselves!” (Close calls happen about a half dozen times a week.)

“Are you aware you just said ‘Son of a bitch’ five F*CKING times in the last five F*CKING minutes?!”

The thunderous snoring. The TV at full volume, coupled with his refusal to replace the battery in his hearing aid. The pointing at his non-existent wrist watch at the stroke of 12 noon and 6pm to not-so-stubbly indicate he’s ready for me to make food. I’ve bitten my lip and lived almost blissfully with all of these “minor inconveniences” for weeks. Then the day came when I discovered the biggest potential Dad-related pet peeve of all: A disrespectful sound used to cut me off in mid-conversation. That’s when I mentally broke and the Mexican Standoff or, in our case, German Standoff began. Continue Reading »

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