This week’s Illustration Friday word suggestion is “intention”.
I’m pretty sure my dad’s intentions were good, but he had his own quirky method of making them known.
My father followed an old-time, though slightly skewed, set of ethics. He was a hard worker and blindly devoted to the company he worked for no matter how little that company gave a shit about him. He tried to instill his work ethic into my brother and me and he somewhat succeeded, as we are both hard workers. However, the Pincus boys just never bought into the “blind loyalty” part, as we came to know after years of working for various employers, that most employers feel that their employees are expendable and easily replaced.
My father loved his family and his way of showing love was to keep constant tabs on their schedules and their whereabouts. As my brother and I came into our teens, that task proved increasingly difficult for my father. Where are you going? How long are you staying there? When will you be home? Who will you be with? these were all part of the regular barrage of questions my brother and I were riddled with when we made a motion toward the front door during our adolescent years. My older brother’s teenage antics made a wreck of my father’s sense of family order and when I reached “driver’s license” age I was no better.
In the summer of 1980, when I was 19, I ran a sidewalk produce stand for my cousin at 16th and Spring Garden Street in downtown Philadelphia. My cousin awakened in the wee hours of the morning and would spend several hours purchasing stock for the stand at the massive Food Distribution Center in South Philadelphia. He’d load his van with crates of fresh fruit and vegetables and I’d meet him at the stand around 8 a.m. to help unload the van and set up for the day. I did this every weekday for the entire summer and, even though I would sometimes stay out fairly late on weekday evenings, I was never on that corner later that 8 a.m. the next day. No matter what. Never.
At the beginning of that summer, I went on my first vacation without my parents. I went to Florida with three of my friends. When I returned home, my cousin recruited me to hawk plums and lettuce and I was just getting into the daily routine that the job required. I had also just met a girl at a local record store and we made plans for a date. Late one afternoon, I came home tired from a full morning of weighing out cherries, bagging bananas and persuading passers-by to pick up some tasty spuds for their family’s dinner. After a shower and a change of clothes, I was ready to take this new girl out to a restaurant and who-knows-what-else. I met my father on the front lawn as I was leaving the house and he was arriving home from work. Right on schedule, the questions began.
He opened with his old favorite “Where are you going?”
“I have a date.”
“When will you be home?”
“I don’t know. Later, I guess.”
“You know, you have work tomorrow.,” he informed me, as though I would not have otherwise been aware of my employment.
“I know.,” I answered as I opened the driver’s door of my mom’s car and slid behind the wheel. My father stood on the lawn, arms folded across his chest, and watched me drive off. It was apparent that he was not pleased with my limited answers to his inquiries.
I arrived at Jill’s house and offered her the passenger’s seat in my mom’s tank-like Ford Galaxie. We chatted as we drove and at one point I glanced in her direction as she nonchalantly popped a Quaalude into her mouth. We pulled into the parking lot of the Inn Flight Steakhouse on Street Road and I helped Jill through the entrance doors as her self-medication affected her navigational ability on the short walk from my car. At dinner we talked and joked and exchanged other typical “first date” pleasantries. Before we knew it, we had spent several extended hours at that table, although I’m sure I was more aware of the time than she was. (Under the circumstances, I sure I was more aware of a lot of things than she was.) She invited me back to her house, explaining that her parents were away for a few days (hint, hint). We drove to her house and, once inside, she motioned to the basement, telling me she join me in a few minutes.
Meanwhile, my father was manning his usual post at the front door. He stood and stared out through the screen with an omnipresent cigarette in one hand, checking his watch approximately every eight seconds.
“Where the hell is he?,” he questioned my mother.
“He’s on a date. He told you. You saw him when you came home from work.,” she replied, as she had countless times before.
“He has to go to work early tomorrow morning. Doesn’t he have a watch? Doesn’t he know what time it is?” My father was convinced that if he personally didn’t inform you of the current time, you couldn’t possibly know. He fancied himself humanity’s “Official Timekeeper”. He would have made a great town crier.
My mother — that poor exasperated, sleep-deprived woman — tried to reason with my father. “He’ll be home. He knows he has to work. He’s responsible. You know he’s responsible.”
Suddenly, he grabbed his coat and scanned the living room for his car keys. “What are you doing?,” my mother asked, suspiciously.
“I’m gonna go look for him. Maybe he has a flat tire.,” he said, trying to sound concerned, but my mom was not convinced.
“You don’t even know where he is. You don’t know where the girl lives. You don’t even know her name! Where are you going to look?” My mother knew he was up to something. No one could get anything past my mother. Especially my father.
“Then, I’ll drive around and look for him.” Ignoring her words, my dad got into his car, backed down the driveway and sped off to a planned destination. He had no intention off driving around. He knew exactly where he was going. Somewhere around the time that Jill was descending her parent’s basement steps wearing little more than a blanket and a smile, my dad was bursting through the doors of a police station several blocks from our home.
“My son is missing.,” my frantic father shouted at the policeman on duty, “I don’t know where he is!”
The unfazed officer grabbed a pen and, with it poised above a notepad, asked my father, “When did you see him last?”
“About seven hours ago,” my dad replied, “when he left for a date.”
The policeman dropped the pen, cocked one eyebrow and stared blankly at my father. “He’s probably still on the date, sir.” He instructed my dad to go home, assuring him that I’d probably be home any minute. Annoyed and dejected, my father shuffled back to his car and drove home. A few minutes after he pulled into the driveway, I steered my mom’s car along the curb in front of my house. As I walked up the front lawn, searching for my house key, the front door opened and the shape of my father was silhouetted by the living room lamp. My mother was lurking several feet behind him.
“What are you still doing up?,” I asked.
“Where the hell were you?,” my father yelled, “I just came from the police station looking for you.”
With this information coming to light for the first time, my mother and I simultaneously emitted a loud, angry and incredulous ‘WHAT?’
“You went WHERE?,” I screamed, “You knew I was on a date! Are you INSANE?” I glanced down at my watch (contrary to my father’s beliefs, I did own one and I referred to it often). “I don’t have time to talk about this. I have to wake up in a couple of hours to go to work.” I echoed my father’s ingrained work ethic and looked him square in the face. “And so do you.,” I finished.
With that, I stomped upstairs, flopped down on my bed and drifted off to sleep to the muffled tones of my mother’s reprimanding voice coming from my parent’s bedroom below.
I know my father’s main concern was my safety and well-being and his intentions were honorable, but he desperately needed to take a course in Parental Behavior. Lucky for him, I think my mom taught those classes.