One of my very favorite memories of my father involves a bottle of ketchup.
First of all, some background: my sister and I were big-time bickerers back in the day. It wasn’t until we were 15 and 18 that we each decided that the other wasn’t so bad. We would pick and poke at each other to the point that our mother was entirely convinced she had done something wrong while she was pregnant that caused us to be born loathing our only sibling. The backseat of the car was never big enough. The air one of us breathed always offended the other. She would ask to borrow my clothes, I’d say no, she’d borrow them anyway. She blinked loudly. I tapped on things just to make her crazy. When Mom went to work when I was in 7th grade, we would come home after school to a house devoid of parental supervision and for that 2 ½ hours before they got home, we would beat the ever-lovin’ snot out of each other.
This particular story took place on a day when for some reason Mom was gone and Sis and I were eating a meal with Dad. We were sitting at the bar that divided the kitchen and dining room – Dad at the end, me to his right, Sis to mine. I got up to get a drink. Sis said, “Hey, could you grab the ketchup while you’re up?” I ignored her and came back to the bar. A moment later I got up to get something else. Again, Sis asked, “Could you grab the ketchup while you’re up?” I once again ignored her. Not long, I again got up. Now, you’ve probably realized that at this point I probably didn’t really need to get up as much as I did. I was merely taunting her. I literally went to the fridge, got something out and ignored her request for ketchup. Apparently that was the breaking point for her. She exclaimed, "REALLY? You couldn’t just get the ketchup? WHILE YOU WERE AT THE FRIDGE??” And I can remember smugly grinning and plopping back down onto my barstool.
The fight was on.
And in the midst of our fussing and name-calling, our father, who had been perfectly silent the entire time, simply got up, went to the fridge, plucked the ketchup from its appointed spot on the shelf, walked calmly to the bar and slammed the ketchup down so hard that America’s favorite condiment burst forth from the lid, shooting upward in a tomato-y geyser that splattered the ceiling and ceiling fan with a spray of red not unlike that seen at crime scenes.
He then sat back down and resumed eating his meal while ketchup dripped from the ceiling and Sis and I sat staring at the broken bottle with eyes as wide as saucers. In unison, we looked up, looked at him, looked at each other and then at our plates. Nary a word was spoken through the entire debacle.
Maybe five minutes later Mom came home. There we were, the three of us, sitting at the kitchen bar, eating dinner like it was our job, not speaking, not looking around. Mom stopped, immediately sensing that there had been a shift in the Force somewhere. Then she caught a glimpse of the ceiling. She inquired as to why the ceiling fan was covered in ketchup. No one answered. Eventually the mess was gone, I assume Mom cleaned it up. It was awhile before we spoke of it. Of course, we found humor in it after the fact.
Dad, thank you for the advice that those who hurt me in high school weren't worth the tears, the butter rum lifesavers at Speech competitions, the ability to make me so mad I could drive a standard through my tears, for giving me the desire to learn giant scientific words and their meanings, and for the gray hair. I really appreciate that one the most.
Happy Father's Day. I love you.
Dad with mine and Sis' kids on Father's Day 2009