Before I begin, I’d like to proffer an apology to Ian Morgan Cron for thus misappropriating his title for this post. I’ve heard wonderful things about his book, Jesus, My Father, the CIA, & Me, but have yet to read it. (Though I do have a copy on the way thanks to Michael Perkins. Thanks, M-Perk!).
Now onto “Jesus, My Cousin, My Dad, & Me: the Shape of My Early Life.”
There a couple of things I learned early in life that perhaps you don’t want your children learning:
1) How to cuss like a sailor; and
2) How to guzzle beer.
I have a cousin, whose name I shan’t give you, who–a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (the 1970s)–was giving his parents quite the hard time, was in trouble constantly, and on drugs. The decision was made that he would move in with my family in Pennsylvania–because my mom, being the juvenile detention officer she was at the time, would “straighten him up.” (As if weed wasn’t readily available in Erie? Give me a break!).
All I remember was, at the time, being displaced from my patriotic-themed room (seriously, whoever thought that blue shag carpeting was a good idea should be… I dunno), and being forced to sleep in my baby brother’s room.
I imagine that was, as a five year-old, my first taste of resentment. I hated being displaced from my room, and I hated trying to sleep in my brother’s room (he being four-and-a-half years my junior).
But no one asked me, nor did they care to. Cousin
[redacted] was in trouble, and needed help. How was I to understand that?
I see that I digress. I did learn something valuable from my cousin: I learned how to swear! And when I say swear, I mean the granddaddy of them all: “motherf***er.”
Which I employed to great effect: we had a family gathering, an aunt came over, asked me what my name was; to which I replied, “Chad Motherf***er Jones.”
She was, I’m sure, quite taken aback at this. I’m also just as certain that she likely swore furiously about it: “What’s wrong with these g**d**n kids today?”
Oh, irony, you are my brother! But your subtleties were quite lost that day!
It was quite another day–I don’t recall if before, or after, the account related above–that I got on mom’s nerves (precocious toddlers have a special way of doing this). Mom had had enough, instructing me to go “relax, and watch TV.”
Which I happily did.
When she came to check on me later, there I was in front of the boob tube, swilling Pabst Blue Ribbon (in those days, beer cans didn’t have pop tops, but pull tabs; God alone knows how I got it open).
“Chad, why are you drinking beer,” she asked, taking it away from me.
“Cuz, dat what daddy do when he watch TV,” I replied.
That’s indeed what dad did–he consumed quite a bit of that liquid gold. And a lot it in front of my young eyes. (Yes, I was the kid who got under the tap at company picnics to help himself. Oh, sure they would shoo me away–but not before remarking how cute I was!)
Again, no one grasped the irony. No one stopped to think about the messages they were sending.
Oh, I got plenty of other messages from my dad about how I didn’t measure up–mostly with him wondering “what the hell is wrong with you?”
But nobody cared about the cussing and drinking. So I learned that was the way to be.
It was much later in life that the same cousin mentioned above told me that–after I mentioned something about my dad–he really respected the man (my dad) because he taught him how to drink! (And, no, he wasn’t being ironic: he meant it).
So much for him getting straightened out in Pennsylvania!
I lived this way for nearly nineteen years before I’d had enough, admitted that God was God, and let Jesus in.
He’d been patiently waiting all along.
Thanks for reading! What wacky childhood antics did you, despite your best efforts to the contrary, manage to survive? Do tell: