Dads don't bluff.
My brothers and I learned this valuable lesson as we were trekking down Interstate 95 on Christmas night, 1979.
Most Decembers of my childhood, we would visit my mom's parents in Orlando over Christmas vacation, leaving on the night of Christmas and returning after New Year's. In the winter of '79, we had been on the road for about five hours when the aforementioned lesson took place.
You see, that year my brothers and I received, courtesy of the "Make Parents Want to Stab Themselves With a Dull Pencil" division of the Milton Bradley Company, a game called "Simon". The object of "Simon" was to repeat, in exact sequence, the beeps, boops, and buzzes (accompanied by multicolored lights) emitted by the jelly donut-shaped game console. We'd been at it since about 5:30 that morning, and when my dad, in a move he would come to regret, said we could bring one toy with us on the trip to Florida, well, Simon was the obvious choice. In the back of the Chevy Nomad we sat, pressing buttons and racking up new high scores into the night.
We beeped our way down the Jersey Turnpike.
We booped through Delaware.
We buzzed past Baltimore.
We even blipped and bleeped across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
In retrospect, and now being a father myself, I have to be honest and say my dad lasted a lot longer than I would have. But even so, somewhere in Virginia we hit DEFCON 1 on the Dad-o-Meter.
"If I hear one more (expletive) beep, I'm throwing that thing to the side of the highway!"
This would be as good a time as any to tell you a little bit about my youngest brother Bobby.
Bobby is five years younger than I am, which made him nine years old that particular Christmas. He is blessed with the gift of humor, the sincere desire to be all things to all people, and a good-natured personality that makes him almost impossible not to like and even harder to get angry at. At age nine he was not, unfortunately, endowed with much of an ability to think things through to their inevitable conclusion. So when Dad made the threat, let's just say that one of us was not on the same page.
"Come on, one more game, it's my turn anyway," Bobby whispered.
"You heard Dad, we have to stop," replied 11-year old Eric. He's the family equivalent of Switzerland.
"Just once. He won't really throw it away," Bobby insisted.
"He might not throw it away, but we'll get in trouble," I added. Keeping it real.
"I think he'll throw it away AND we'll get in trouble," said Eric, keeping it realer.
"Here, let me have it," Bobby said, and grabbed Simon from the van's table. Eric and I just looked at each other. Let the games begin.
Somewhere in Detroit, at Chevrolet's manufacturing plant, there is a man who was responsible for installing the braking system on the 1978 Chevy Nomad. Based on the immediacy with which my father was able to bring the vehicle to a screeching halt on the shoulder of I-95, I am certain that this gentleman at Chevy took his job very seriously, and undoubtedly earned Employee of the Year honors.
The sliding door opened. An outstretched arm and an open hand reached into the back of the van. Without a word, Bobby placed Simon in the hand. The arm withdrew. The door slammed shut.
When we next saw our father, he was standing in front of the van, illuminated only by the headlights. It was almost ethereal. Then, in one fluid, Jenner-esque motion, Dad wound up and discus-flung Simon into the night, abandoned, to beep its final boop in the woods outside Norfolk.
We drove the next 25 miles or so in dead silence, which was only to be broken by two words Eric muttered under his breath."Told ya."
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Dads don't bluff.