Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Day My Dad First Tried to Kill Me

I haven't been felling particularly write-y lately.  I dunno what's up.  I'm 2 weeks into antibiotics for the Bartonella co-infection.  Big whoop-nothing new there.  Although my brain is even foggier than before.  But the aches and pains are more sporadic, less constant , all good things- but it all makes for lousy writing inspiration.

I could tell you the time I flunked a college class for plagiarizing myself, but that means my mom and dad will find out I'm not perfect, and I will have to name names in the hierarchy of Sacramento State (because, for fuck's sake, plagiarizing myself???) so I will leave that one alone. For now.

I know! I will tell you about the day my dad first tried to kill me.

But before I do that, I must tell you about me and my dad.  We were very close when I was growing up. I had a bunch of boy cousins, and a bunch of uncles, no girls to hang with much.  When it was time to go throw rocks in the lake, go fishing, or check out the USS Enterprise, I went with them all, sporting my very own Toughskins, complete with patches on the knees. I brought along my Hotwheels too, to play with my cousins. I would be my dad's "helper" on the weekends, and we would celebrate a job well-done with a can of soda and some sort of jerky stick from the liquor store.  We were buds, and I trusted what he said-I relied on him for accurate information. Mom was the boss, the one that reined us in when we got too crazy, too silly, too loud.  Dad was the Fun Guy, the one I played with, the one that was just a little bit goofy.  In fact, my current household mirrors this hierarchy as well.

Fine, back to the story....

When I was growing up, we had Family Fun Day.  Here's a hint: when the title of the event tells you how to feel about said event, be assured you will most certainly feel the opposite.  What happened on Family Fun Day is we would go, just to get out of the house.  We would drive, try new foods, see new things.  Often, there were antique stores involved.  Or driving through new neighborhoods.  Or going 2 hours to eat at a restaurant my parents had heard about.  I've been to more obscure places in Northern California than that twit from the show Bay Area Back Roads.  I've been to a llama farm, a koi fish farm, and all manner of junk/antique/thrift shops.  Every once in a great while, we would be surprised with a Family Fun Day that involved doing some awesome kid-centered event.

This particular Family Fun Day turned into family fun weekend.  We drove down to Santa Cruz, and spent the night in a motel.  Then, we had a day to spend at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  If you don't know Northern California, it's a coastal amusement park situated on a long boardwalk.  There's tons to look at and do-little shops, greasy carnie food, carnival games, miles of beaches and ocean, and rides.  At the time, the entrance fee was free, and each ride cost a number of tickets. I was fond of the carousel, because you could grab rings coming off a long metal chute every time you went around, and then throw them at the face of a big clown painted on the wall, trying to toss the rings in his mouth.

They also had a pretty decent log ride, and other things I loved-tilt-a-whirls, bumper cars, you know the drill. They also had a huge wooden roller coaster: The Giant Dipper.  My brother was in a stroller, and I was 8-ready for my first roller coaster.  My mom gets motion sickness, and my dad is the polar-opposite.  So in line he and I went, he beaming from ear to ear experiencing my first coaster with me, me timid and reluctant, not knowing what to expect.  As we walked forward, watching other people get on and off, hearing their screams, i was losing the small modicum of cajones that led to me say "yes" in the first place.  As every car came into the boarding area, we moved closer and closer to what I was starting to think would be my rapid descent into a fiery ball of death.

The group in front of us shuffled forward, and the man stopped us, counted, and secured the hook into the eyelet, signaling that the car was full.  Now, we were at the front of the line.

Let me stop for one second to explain my dad.  He's a fairly quiet guy.  Not chatty.  But every once in a while, he gets a bad idea, and it turns him into a giggling 12-year old girl.  Everything he says during this period of time is said with the insane lilt of a man hell-bent on trouble. it usually comes complete with raised eyebrows, and an insane grin only the truly psychotic possess.

In this particularly creepy voice, he says, "Good!  We get the first car!  You know what that means, right? We get to be the first...to DIE!"  he then proceeded to laugh maniacally.

At least I think that is what he said, because I was too busy running my scrawny ass back to my Mommy. He yelled for the crowd to stop me, and this was in the '70s, when it was a given that someone in the neighborhood would whoop you if your parents didn't-everyone butted in to everyone else's business. So, of course all those child-haters grabbed me, and passed me forward. Dad got a hold of me, and we waited.  To die.

Every tic-tic-tic

*Being a completely normal, not-overly-dramatic-at-all person, I can assure you it was very scary, and there was creepy organ music playing at the same time, to build suspense. Okay, we all know that is not true.  I was as dramatic, if not more so, then than I am now.  Hardly seems possible but it's true.

When it was our turn, the man came over and opened the cue.  It was then that I realized we could choose any row-being at the front of the line gave us that priority.  But no.  It was all the way to the front. 

Let me also explain that my father did NOT have a child development background.  He did not take courses on psychology in college. He was not big on reading Dr. Spock.  All he knew, as most dads will agree, was how to scare the absolute shit out of children.  And scaring children was fun.  Because everyone in the world knew he was joking, and that made it all okay. 

When I introduce a new concept to my children, I give background.  For instance, in this particular case, I might say, "Part of the fun is in the unknown, but I assure you, this ride is completely safe.".  Or maybe I would say, "I know this bar seems like an inadequate restraint, but physics dictates this will suffice in keeping us safe."  Or even, "Don't trip, little one.  Just enjoy." 

Not my dad.  He was still giggling, but soon my sobs grew loud.  They took that sharp left down the path of No Return-the point where I am almost in hysterics, and he realizes he might have been a teensy bit too harsh.

I screamed through the entire ride, not looking up once.  In fact, I distinctly remember wrapping my arms securely around the waist bar, clinging for what I was sure was a battle for my life.  I had even stopped with the dramatic antics, and entered the Land of Sheer Terror.  I had convinced myself i was moments from dying, and was not going out quietly.

By the time the roller coaster screeched to a halt, I was ready to launch myself out of the car, and run towards the exit.  I tore off like a bat out of hell, and ran right into my mom's legs, telling her what my dad had said.

It was a looooooong, quiet ride home.

The story would not be complete without me telling you that, A) I LOVE roller coasters A LOT and B) Family Fun Day has continued.  We do the same thing to our kids-we take them to check out model homes just for fun, we wander through interesting neighborhoods, and I think my kids will have some great memories from these days.  In fact, Princess was sneezed on in the face by a llama on one of these adventures.  She was really pissed at the time, but she just might grow to look back on those trips as the adventures they really were.

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