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September 9, 2013 / MissSteele

I Know You Would Still Be Here Embarrassing Me If You Could

“Bring me a sandwich,” I said to my friend via Facebook chat one sunny afternoon in high school.

“What?” she replied. “I just told you Brad asked me to the dance and all you can say is ‘bring me a sandwich’?”

“I want a sandwich. A meatball sub from Quiznos. Go get me one and bring it to me,” I said once more.

“Um…is this even you?” she asked, knowing the most probable answer to that question.

It wasn’t me. It was my step-father, Barry, posing as me on my computer and requesting sandwiches from my friends. He often did things like this to provide a source of amusement to himself. I, however, did not find it funny at the time. At 16-years-old, humiliation was not a feeling I tolerated well. I have since grown into myself and lucky for me, I am in a constant state of humiliation, so it doesn’t affect me like it used to.

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That’s my secret, Cap. I stay humiliated.

I’ll never forget the time my friend, Claire, stopped by to pick me up and he opened the front door without a shirt on, eating a bowl of cereal. “Hello, Claire,” he said. “I’m eating cereal.”

“I see that,” she replied, a bit confused.

“I put just a little bit of milk in it, so it stays crunchy, yet moist,” he explained, pointing into the cereal bowl.

“That’s nice,” Claire said, not knowing what else to say.

“I had a dream about you last night,” he blurted out.

“What?” she asked.

“You were in my dream. You were helping me move furniture. I thought it was odd because you are so small, and if any of her friends were going to help me move furniture it would be Melissa because she is so big. But, no. It was you.”

By this time, I realized she had arrived and I quickly darted to the front door to try and save her, but as you can imagine, I was too late. I was so angry after she dropped me off at home, I told him, “Claire’s family NEVER does things like that to her friends!”

“That’s because Claire’s family is carved out of cream cheese,” he responded. I couldn’t really argue with him about that. Turns out, they were pod people. But, they had a boat.

As I previously mentioned, I was not a fan of this behavior at the time. I was afraid my friends would think my family was weird. Then, I grew older and realized my family is, in fact, very weird. But, I love that about them. I don’t know what I would do with a normal family (if there is really such a thing). I love our quirks and our craziness. I am proud to hail from such an unconventional bunch.

I was contemplating this idea today because it is my step-father’s birthday, and it is days like this I miss him more than ever. It was only after his death that I truly began to appreciate his sense of humor and his wisdom that I often disregarded because I thought I knew better. It’s days like this I remember him fondly and wish I would have told him that when I had the chance, even though he made it his mission in life to embarrass me beyond repair.

Like the time he was teaching me to drive and had me go through a Hardee’s drive-thru so he could get a cheeseburger, and the gentleman in the window had apparently taken a liking to me. He started making chit chat with me while we waited for the burger and asked if I had a boyfriend. It was then that Barry leaned over and said, “All we want is the cheeseburger, honcho.” This was, of course, mortifying at the time. Now, I see the humor in it.

I can remember Barry waiting until my brother took a giant bite of his tuna sandwich before he jokingly said, “I rubbed your sandwich on the cat’s butt while you were gone.” I remember hearing his hardy laugh echo throughout the house as he watched police chase videos and cackled as the criminals slammed into guard rails. I remember him always making up silly songs about random things like making breakfast. He would sing, “Pancake time, Aunt Jemima! Aunt Jemima with cheese!”

It made absolutely no sense, I know.

Over the years, his seemingly bizarre behavior had grown familiar to me. But, it wasn’t always that way. I’ll never forget the first time my mother brought him over for dinner. I was barely 8-years-old and my brother was only a toddler. When he walked in the door to introduce himself, my brother ran up to him on all fours and said, “Roar, I’m a cheetah!” He then bit him on the leg. Despite that incident, he stayed for dinner and we got to know him a little better. I remember thinking he was super weird because I told him a joke I had heard at school and he didn’t laugh. So, I looked at him right in the eye and said, “Why aren’t you laughing?”

He responded with, “I’ve learned to hold my laughter on the inside.” When I was 8, I didn’t understand his dry humor. At this point in my life, it is one of the things I miss the most about him.

Aside from his constant need to embarrass me at all times, he was also overly-cautious about everything. This too was a trait I found incredibly annoying at the time, but I have grown to appreciate it. When my brother was a teenager, he wouldn’t allow him to clean the gutters because he was terrified he would fall off the ladder and die. He was reluctant to let him use the weed-eater because he was afraid it would chop his leg off and the other kids would call him, “Stumpy.”

The first time they let me drive the car by myself, I looked in my rear-view mirror only to see him following behind me in his car. Another time, he picked me up from my friend’s house and I proceeded to tell him how my friend and I hid in the shower and scared her father when he walked into the bathroom as a prank. Rather than giggle at my story, he freaked out and screamed, “DON’T EVER DO THAT! HE COULD HAVE SHOT YOU TO DEATH! I just heard a story on the news about a girl who jumped out and scared her father and he shot her dead. THAT COULD HAVE BEEN YOU!”

But, it wasn’t just the major stuff like ladders and cars that had him worried for our safety. It was everything else as well. Once when I was having a sleep over, he insisted we keep my bedroom door open.

“We are only painting our nails!” I said.

“Yes, but what if you pass out and are overcome by fumes? We won’t know until it’s too late, and by then the cat will have eaten your bodies,” he replied to my horror.

Yes, these are the things I remember most about my step-father, but I also remember the caring things he did for me. Every Valentine’s Day, I would come home to a box of chocolates and some flowers from him. Every birthday and every Christmas he would get me something he thought I could really use. One year he got me a really expensive keyboard so I could train to be a musical prodigy. Another year he got me an expensive case of art supplies because I expressed interest in sketching. These are the kinds of things I took for granted as a child because I didn’t realize how expensive those items really were for a family living on a limited budget. I didn’t realize how much faith my parents had in me when they bought me these things.

Obviously, I didn’t become a musical prodigy. The keyboard was played with, not played well. I am not a famous artist, those expensive oil paints and pastels had their potential wasted on me. Now that I think about it, I truly hope I wasn’t a major disappointment to him.

He wasn’t able to see me get engaged or attend my wedding. He won’t be here to see me become successful (if I ever get to that point), and he won’t be around to see me have children. He did, however, live to see me succeed at one thing. He was able to see me graduate college.

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This picture of my college graduation was taken less than a month before he passed away. What you can’t see in this picture is the wheelchair in which he had been sitting. Although he could barely walk due to his condition, he wanted to stand up to take a picture with me. This is the last picture we ever took together.

In the last couple of years of his life, when his health was really deteriorating, he still tried his best to get his kicks by showing off his surgical wounds to my friends. And once in a morphine haze after surgery, he yelled out, “Wilford Brimley!” That gave me a much needed laugh that day and I’ll never forget the confused expression on everyone’s face.

Yes, Barry had said many things to me in the time that I knew him. But, nothing he ever said to me was as important as the “I love you” he said to me after his final operation. He passed away the next day, but I am still thankful to this day we were able to let each other know that before he slipped away. After that, all of the disagreements we had didn’t matter anymore. All of the little spats and all of the moments of anger seemed so trivial.

Happy birthday, Barry. I will always remember and love you. And I’m still sorry about that time I lined the toilet rim with bang snaps as a prank, and when you sat down on the seat, it made a horribly loud crackling sound and you thought you broke the toilet. You screamed so loud I thought you had a heart attack. Actually, that was pretty funny.

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For those of you who don’t know, these are bang snaps, and they will put the fear of God into anyone who sits on them.

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2 Comments

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  1. outlier00 / Sep 11 2013 10:27 pm

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