This Pig is My Father, Which Is Less Shocking Than The Part In Star Wars When Luke Loses His Hand Which Was SUPER Shocking To My 12 Year Old Self

When I was thirteen and Diana was eleven, our family was supposed to go on a trip to Europe. Two days before we were supposed to leave, my mother was playing basketball with my sister in the driveway. Despite having spent her life up until that point being a vaguely doughy nerd whose greatest athletic achievement was doing a thirty minute exercise video once a week , my mother decided that she was going to channel Michael Jordan and leaped to make a jump shot. She missed of course. And she also landed funny, snapping her left Achilles tendon in two.

My mother spent the next six weeks in a hip to toe cast while Diana, my father and me traipsed about Europe. It was the first time in our lives that our Dad had been responsible for us for any significant length of time.

While my Dad has a healthy respect for rules, ultimately his favourite go-to was “What did you mother say?” because when push came to toy begging, extra cookie wanting, may I stay up until midnight shove, my mother was the bad cop, the last stop, the enforcer of all the household regulations.

There’s nothing quite like a teen and a tween being given carte blanche to demand their wildest fantasies in a foreign country. My Dad’s greatest desire is for his family to be happy, so if that means that his children eat only apricots from the local produce stand for every meal three days straight, well bring on the diarrhea, because gosh darn it his girls are happy.

And we were. The only time I heard “No” that trip was when I told a snooty Parisian waiter that I wanted Nutella pizza for dinner and the man replied “Absolutely not. That is a dessert, you must choose something else.”

For two weeks my sister and I ate what we wanted. We ran wild through French cities. We swung our umbrellas and danced with them open on the crowded British tube. On the airplane we sang the same song over and over for forty minutes straight, no doubt annoying the hell out of every other passenger around us save for my father who smiled and recorded the event for posterity sake.

And then we visited Harrods. Renowned for being posh and having everything, crossing the threshold into the store’s hallowed entranceway; my father recounted the story of a man walking into Harrod’s asking to buy an elephant. The salesman, without missing a beat, replied coolly, “African or white Sir?”

My Dad wanted us to have a souvenir from this iconic store. We wandered around, looking at all the expensive wares. Recognizing how expensive the merchandise was, my sister and I ceased our umbrella swinging dance. Had I asked for a pair of 300 dollar bejeweled shoes, my father would have bought them- so long as I assured him that I would be endlessly happy with them. As it was, my sister and I were in essence, still children, which is how my father got away with not dropping a fortune that day. My sister chose a battery powered gerbil that you could place in a plastic ball that would then roll all around the room. I chose and obnoxiously loud toy pig which walked and oinked.

That afternoon we drove from London to Brighton. My sister and I were unimpressed with Brighton- we found it dirty. To this day, I remember my description of the hotel’s décor: 70’s psychedelic vomit. Despite my rudeness, my Dad laughed because we all found the brown carpet and wall paper dated.

There was one bright spot to the working class town- the pier with carnival games and rides which transported one back to the turn of the century as you walked along the aged boards with the bright, large light bulbs strung above the walkways. Diana and I begged to go on the rides. Ever the people pleaser, my Dad purchased a string of tickets. We elected to go into the scariest ride, an idea that wouldn’t have flown had my mother been there- she was absolutely opposed to any suggestion of violence. The gory exterior alone inspired fear in my young teenage heart.

The three of us wouldn’t fit in one cart so Diana, always the braver of the two of us, gallantly offered to ride alone. The doors to the ride opened and in front of us was a torture scene. This was absolutely not a children’s ride. “Close your eyes!” my sister shrieked at me, knowing my tendency to have nightmares. My hands flew up to my face, shielding my mind and my eyes from the terror all around.

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I kid you not, it was like being a horrified extra in the “Saw” movies. (Photo Credit : dreadcentral.com)

My Dad’s arm pulled me close, I felt badly for Diana who was all alone while I cowered against Dad. At one point I worked up some courage and peaked through my fingers only to see a person covered in blood and knives flashing above them. I screamed and squeezed my eyes shut again.

Despite having only seen approximately three seconds of the ride, my legs wobbled as we exited the ride car. Diana, my Dad and I explored the pier a little longer, and then headed back to the hotel. In all of the excitement of the day, Diana and I had forgotten about our new toys.

My eyes burned with the lateness of the hour but my face smiled with delight as we watched Diana’s gerbil roam around the brown carpet and wedge itself briefly under the bed. My pig’s loud “oinks” cut through the silence of the hotel night. I remember the joy of that moment, watching these toys with my Dad and sister after a day of “Yes”.20171007_120058

To me, this pig is my father; it represents all of the times he agreed just for the sake of my and my sister’s happiness.

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Cardboard Umbrellas and Minor Identity Theft

 

This week my grandmother turns eighty-nine. Consequently I am staying with my parents so I can attend the celebration. I enjoy my jaunts home, whether or not my parents also enjoy my visits changes from moment to moment.

 

 

Telephone modele U43-MGR Lyon-IMG 9923

My generation does not believe in landlines. One of the perks of coming home is getting to answer my parents’ home phone. My father uses this line to call his clients and telemarketers use this phone as a way of irritating my father. When I come home I use the home phone to annoy the bejaysus out of telemarketers.

 

My favourite thing to do when I hear the special long distance ring is to pick up the phone and in the highest tone in my register say “Hello?”

 

Invariably the telemarketer asks “Is Mr. Phillip D. Belnar there?” which is a complete bastardization of my father’s name. No one calls him Phillip, his name is Phil. Furthermore my father’s business associates would never use the “D.” in his name and most importantly my family’s name isn’t even Belnar, it’s Bilnur.*

 

I take this as a sign that mischief must be made. Using the top of my register again, a full three octaves above my father’s low tenor, I’ll answer “This is him.”

 

Occasionally the telemarketers will be slightly annoyed by this and ask again “Is Mr. Phillip D. Belnar there?”

 

And I’ll doggedly answer a second time “This is him” acquiescing slightly to their demand to speak with a man by lowering my voice, but only a little. “Is there a problem?” I’ll ask.

 

“Well Mr. Belnar”, they’ll answer, “It isn’t so much a problem as an opportunity”.

 

At this point, I’ll cut the salesperson off and let the most ridiculous ideas spew from my mouth, making sure not to take a breath to allow the telemarketer an opportunity to interrupt. “You know I’m so glad you called, I actually have an opportunity for you! Cardboard umbrellas, now wait a moment there, I know what you’re thinking- That dog won’t hunt.”

 

This is my favourite part of the conversation, increasingly call centres are being outsourced to countries where English is a second language. These companies can teach their employees all of the grammar in the world, but there’s nothing like an outdated Southern saying to throw a non native speaker off. You don’t realize that confusion makes a sound until you hear it.

 

I’ll continue with my absurd pitch, railroading both the telemarketers’ original purpose and their puzzlement. “Now how many times have you left an umbrella somewhere and lost it?” I’ll say once again without pausing. “Really the item in question is disposable, so my question to you is –Why not treat it as such?” It’s at this point in the non conversation, because the formerly tenacious salesperson has been forced to give up their end of the call from the absurdity of my behaviour, that they hang up.

 

I consider it a personal badge of honor that I have only had to end a call on a telemarketer a handful of times.

 

*For obvious reasons this is not my father’s real name. Although I create such minor mischief as impersonating my Dad, I’m not in the habit of putting his full name on the internet. Unless of course I was going whole hog and putting his phone number alongside with the message “For a good time call”.

 

Awkward Beard Love

Archer*, the young man who tends my parents’ garden has a lush, thick beard. The kind of beard you’d find on Santa if Father Christmas was a ginger. Sometimes when I’m home my parents will ask me to bring him some ice water or I’ll offer him a cup of coffee in the morning. It was this kind of interaction which led to the following conversation.

The Great Unwashed hands Archer a glass of ice water. Archer puts down the pruning shears and happily accepts it. As he’s sipping the liquid The Great Unwashed decides to fill the silence and finally says what’s on her mind.

The Great Unwashed– “You have a really great beard.”

Archer swallows and says “Thank you.” Then takes another sip.

The Great Unwashed– “I wish I could grow a beard like that.”

Archer coughs and looks surprised.

The Great Unwashed wistfully to herself –“Maybe when I’m older.”

One day this will be mine. Just imagine all the things I could hide in there. (Photo Credit: http://www.build-a-beard.com/)

One day this will be mine. Just imagine all the things I could hide in there. (Photo Credit: http://www.build-a-beard.com/)

As women age they produce less estrogen leading to the growth of facial hair. My mother spent her teen years working in a nursing home. If her stories are true; ninety percent of elderly care is female mustache removal and the other ten percent is bathing people with faded tattoos. There’s hope for me yet.

*As Archer has yet to accept another beverage from me following this exchange I felt that it was best to change his name.

The Post Where I Talk SMACK About My Dad

My Dad is the reigning Great Unwashed Super Fan. He’s the first to read most posts and he laughs the loudest when I read drafts to him. However it has been brought to my attention that I regularly write nice things about my Dad but have yet to do so about my Mom.

So Mom this post is for you.

The last week of June was a hard one for me. It was extremely busy but more importantly I had to shower FOUR TIMES. I’m going to repeat that last statement so the extent of my hardship can be fully comprehended – I showered FOUR TIMES.

It was awful, I was constantly clean, which made the clothing sniff test much harder because while normal people sniff a shirt and think “Does this smell clean?” I inhale the scent of my worn clothing and think “Does this smell cleaner than me?”

And last week the answer was nearly always “No”.

So I set about regressing to my mean of 2.5 showers a week by not bathing for five days. I arrived at my parent’s house on the fourth day of not showering; pungent but not quite grimy. My curly hair formed tight corkscrews that leapt off my head in all directions and my skin had the glow of a well rested hippie. Please note that although hippies would have you believe their excellent constitution and radiant skin comes from their locally grown, organic only diet, it’s actually from not bathing.

However my Grandmother’s eighty-ninth birthday was the following evening so I had planned to shower then. Before my father was set to return home I jumped in the tub and washed my dirt coated self including my corkscrew curls.

I jumped back out and my hair set about drying immediately, because that’s what short curly hair does- whatever the heck it feels like. And at that moment it felt like drying into perfect tight curls.

Fast forward half an hour, I’ve celebrated my newly washed state by running through my parents’ garden and am now sitting on my mother’s bed with clean, dry, curly hair and freshly dirt-coated feet. My father arrives home from work and sits down on the bed.

Dad- “I was figuring we’d leave in half an hour?”

Mom and The Great Unwashed – “We’re ready.”

Dad looks at The Great Unwashed- “When was the last time you washed your hair?”

The Great Unwashed in an indignant tone that conveys that if this is how she will be treated after showering she may never do so again- “Today!”

Dad – “Oh”

It’s called dirty blonde for a reason.

So that’s my talking smack about Dad post. Only then I turned to my mother and asked “Do I look unkempt?”

To which she replied, “No you look like you.”

Mom, for the record it would be a lot easier if you didn’t write the material for me.

 

Anyway so fast forward to the end of the night when I realize that even after being shoved into white socks and running through wet grass that my feet are still dirty. My father is generally complimentary; he’s the first one to tell me I look pretty or that a dress matches my eyes. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, and do some further questioning before writing smack about him.

The Great Unwashed perches at the top of the stairs while Dad assembles a midnight snack- “Dad, did you look at my feet before you asked about my hair earlier?”

Dad- “No, why?”

The Great Unwashed now contemplating stewing in her own bodily fluids for eternity again says in a huffy manner “No reason.”

 

 

Apparently I look unwashed even when I’m partially clean. I will never bathe again. Or at least I may not shower until Roscoe threatens grab the garden hose and spray me with it prison style if I don’t grab some soap myself.

Parenting The Great Unwashed

Flashback a dozen years.  I am sweet sixteen. It’s a Saturday. Normal sixteen year olds sleep in and hang out with their friends on weekends. However never having approached normal, even at sixteen, I went grocery shopping with my Mom.

Mom is in the laundry room lacing up her shoes to leave.

Mom calls- “I’m going to the store, are you ready?”

I bound into the room, raring to go.

Great Unwashed– “I’m ready!”

Mom looks my outfit up and down with concern.

The Great Unwashed – “Is it the oversized sombrero?”

Mom– “No, it’s not the oversized sombrero. It’s the sombrero and the short shorts with the mismatched pink socks in running shoes. Also the cape.”

The Great Unwashed– “The socks match! They’re both pink!”

Rainbow striped toe socks worn with thong sandals

Also an excellent combination. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mom sighing heavily – “No, one sock has a pink band at the top and the other has a black band at the top with a picture of a cat on it.”

The Great Unwashed remains unconvinced by this argument.

Mom– “You can wear the sombrero but take off the cape.”

The Great Unwashed –“But if I take off the cape I won’t look heroic or important when I run down the pasta aisle pretending to be a crime fighter, I’ll just look silly.”

Mom – “Ok, you can leave the cape.”

My mother stands at the door mentally calculating the likelihood of me coming downstairs with matching pink socks versus me coming downstairs wearing the same socks but with blue paint in my hair, if she sends me upstairs to change.

Mom – “It’s fine. Let’s just go.”

You know those parents that lament their offspring leaving for university and complain about being empty nesters? For whatever reason my Mom never did that. Some people are just lucky, I guess.

My 60,000 Dollar Cat Scratch

By my estimation, Roscoe and I have invested some sixty Gs in his medical education, most of the time I don’t see the benefit to this expenditure. As a med student he works long hours at the hospital for no pay, brings in loads of debt and when he has practical exams, insists on testing the range of motion in my knees. Not terribly exciting.

Around the beginning of his second year of med school Roscoe developed his “Doctor Voice”. It’s a very confident but stern sounding voice. Entirely different from his husband voice which is the one that tells me I look pretty and asks whether it’s past my bedtime.

See if you didn’t know the two of us, that last sentence would sound like a come on “That’s what SHE said”. I badly misused that saying, teenage boys everywhere are hanging their heads in shame at me.

Roscoe sometimes attempts to use his doctor voice at home, generally when he wants to prove that he’s right about something. “Put that away!” I’ll yell when I hear those soft but reassuring tones.

So a month or so ago I was running my first road race in three years, my first ten kilometer race in goodness knows how long. The event was in Toronto, so Roscoe and I were staying overnight at my parent’s house rather than driving the two plus hours from our home to the start.

Everything was going smoothly. Well for me at least. Some kids grew up with mothers who cut the crusts off their sandwiches, moms who dropped them off at university and then returned many, many times for visits, mums who really cared about important things like jewelry, and whether your purse matched your shoes.

My mother is a sports mom. She leaves crusts on sandwiches, she visited me once at university after dropping me off and I’ve frequently left the house wearing both stripes and floral print at the same time.

However come race day, get out of her way, she’s a tiger mom, up at five am with coffee and strategies for how to cut your time. She stashes extra safety pins for your bib in her coat and has water and chocolate milk sitting in the car to rehydrate. You’ll recognize her at the finish line because she’ll be the one jumping so high that she might as well be attached to a pogo stick.

So despite the fact that I didn’t train, had no idea where the race was, and had not packed the appropriate gear, I wasn’t terribly worried about the ten kilometer race I had to run the next day.

That was until I was mauled by a Bear.

I have a theory that my parent's cat is related to the Terminator, or some other alien robot being. It would explain her eyes when photographed.

I have a theory that my parent’s cat is related to the Terminator, or some other alien robot being. It would explain her eyes when photographed.

Bear is the newest addition to my parent’s house. She is the only cat they’ve ever had who has not lived with me. The cats that I grew up with understood that I moved like a Sherman tank, crushing everything in my path. They stayed out of my way, and I lived up to my end of the bargain by not being too upset when they loved my mother more than me.

Bear has never lived with me. Bear also moves like a Sherman tank. One with claws.

Which is how the night before my race I got these.

My photoshop instructions to Candy- "Make my foot look more like Charlize Theron's." Candy's reply "I don't know what to do with these instructions?"

My photoshop instructions to Candy- “Make my foot look more like Charlize Theron’s.” Candy’s reply “I don’t know what to do with this request?”

 

Essentially Bear and I played a very dangerous, painful and ultimately bloody, game of chicken.

Bear was racing up the stairs, across the landing and heading for my bedroom at top speed. Watching her shoot straight at me like some sort of ginger cheetah, I stood my ground. And Bear also stood her ground. Until at the last second we both moved the same direction. Which caused Bear to run half into the door frame, as she attempted to stop herself with her claws on my foot. I felt pain, heard a loud thud and watched a starry eyed Bear wobbly make her way under my bed.

“Bear!” I cried, “Bear! Come here, I’m sorry.” I pleaded bending down to lift up the bed skirt, the extent of my wounds disguised by my body’s beautiful shock reflex. Still woozy but expecting me to somehow cause her to run into more door frames Bear darted past me. And that’s when I looked down and realized blood was pooling on my foot.

Roscoe took one look at it and thought “Infection and cat scratch fever”. Immediately he put his doctor voice into action. Overwhelmed by my feelings of guilt and the blood about to stain my parent’s beige carpet, I blindly followed my husband into the kitchen. There he cleaned the lacerations and then set about neatly taping a napkin to my foot. Power gels are on my mother’s grocery list, not gauze. The gory blood now covered up and the new carpet no longer in danger I returned to my senses. “That doesn’t look dramatic enough! You need to wrap it!”

Roscoe stopped ripping the masking tape into neat sections and instead began haphazardly wrapping my foot with tape. “There” he said “happy now?”

“No, take a photo of it.”

The Great Unwashed way to dress a wound. Note how it makes use of none of Roscoe's doctor abilities.

The Great Unwashed way to dress a wound. Note how it makes use of none of Roscoe’s doctor abilities. My first opportunity to use Roscoe’s expensive degree and I didn’t take it.

For the record I ran a fifty-four minute ten km, for my American readers out there I ran a fifty four minute six mile race. Pretty good considering the perfectly straight blood stains I found in my sock afterwards.