Grandpa Mike

About two months ago my father moved to Utah from Tennessee because all of his grandchildren were growing up without him including his granddaughter, Leta, who more than any of the others exhibits his blustery exasperation toward the injustices of life like taxes and having to wear shoes outside. My sister and I were worried that once he realized how much he was going to have to spend on a house (well over a dollar) that he’d have a heart attack because when he heard how much we paid for our houses he looked like he’d swallowed a goat.

He ended up buying a gigantic house clear on the other side of Earth, so far on the other end of the valley that it’s called Nevada. We’ve been over to his house a few times since he moved in, even though after one round-trip we’re halfway to an oil change. But it’s not the travel time that bothers me as much as the amount of shit I have to be on top of when we get there. There are floors that could be stained and glass figurines that could be toppled and opinions of me that could be damaged forever. If there is one thing in this world that I want to be able to give to my father – other than an autographed headshot of President Clinton to hang above his bed – it’s the knowledge that he raised a daughter who can take care of her own kids. My dad knows that my soul in going to burn in Hell for the rest of Eternity along with Sean Penn and Al Franken, but I know that he cares more about whether or not I can get my kids to OBEY MY EVERY ORDER.

Over the weekend he and my step-mother invited us out to dinner along with my mother and my step-father. This is a normal thing for my family, for the four parents to get together and have eerily polite and friendly conversation, it’s just not so normal for everyone else. Jon said that he didn’t know which he felt weirder about, the part where my divorced parents were eating dinner together with their new spouses, or the fact that it didn’t feel weird. I told him he didn’t know what weird was until he had to introduce his first date to two fathers. “This is my dad, and this here is my other one. Both of them own guns.”

My father having lived his entire life in the tropical rain forests of the South doesn’t know what has hit him now that he lives in a climate that requires the installation and maintenance of various systems in order for a lawn to survive the night. Jon, Official Troubleshooter for Anything Remotely Technical for all 100 Members of the Extended Armstrong and Hamilton Families Living in Utah, spent the first hour of our visit helping my father find the shut-off valve to his sprinkler system and the second hour installing a printer and photo software on my father’s computer. My family can just go on with themselves about how gruesome and uncomely before the Lord I have become, but they know that if I were to walk away right now that I would take Jon with me and nothing in their houses would ever be fixed again, particularly anything that requires downloading or an .exe file or even a simple RESTART.

I spent those two hours chasing Leta up and down the stairs to his basement fearful that by some unforeseen force of nature her pants would spontaneously fall off and she would piss all over their carpet. I had dark visions of chunky vomit shooting out her mouth and landing on their new leather sofa, or maybe she would find a black permanent marker just lying around on the floor and use it to color the flecks in the pattern on their countertops. My worst fear was that we would sit down to dinner and Leta would refuse to eat proving to my father that not only does she not obey her mother but that she can roll her eyes and hiss simultaneously, HIS DAUGHTER REALLY IS THE SPAWN OF SATAN.

Fortunately for Leta my step-mother cooks everything the way it should be cooked, in a lot of butter, and dinner was not only delicious but I had to stop myself from stripping naked and lathering my parts with the chicken casserole. Leta ate green beans which points to some third party involved in her conception because what kid eats green beans? CERTAINLY NOT MINE. After a helping of corn and chicken she did show signs of slowing by transforming into The Dread Ferret Face where she scrunches her nose up like some scuttling rodent and bears the three-foot wide space between her front teeth. That’s a face every grandfather could love, I thought. Makes you want to pick her up and dangle her by her tail.

Toward the end of dinner I could feel the ink drying on my father’s new will, the one where he leaves everything to Leta for her Outstanding Discipline and Posture and Willingness to Ask How High, Sir? And we were about to escape with the fortune when Jon started telling an anecdote about the rat we use to torture each other and my step-mother said, “You mean the one you wrote about on your website? I remember reading about it.” The other day we watched this terrible horror movie where Anna Paquin suddenly turns around in her haunted Spanish mansion and a skinny, deteriorated carcass starts crab-walking backwards across the ceiling while making a noise that sounds like forty hyenas being dipped into liquid nitrogen, and I couldn’t believe we sat through the entire movie it was that bad, but now I know that God wanted me to see that one part so that when I realized that my STEP-MOTHER was reading my husband’s website I could testify to what it felt like to have my soul ripped out by the pores of my skin and handed over to the demons of Hell.