Daddy’s insistence on respect from his family made it all the more rewarding when indignities befell him. Daddy was the first the see humor when we found ourselves in awkward or embarrassing situations, but did not like being the butt of jokes. Naturally, we loved seeing him embarrass himself. Daddy worked alternating shifts at the paper mill. Anticipating a black mood when he worked the night shift, we scattered when we knew it was time for him to get up. I made every effort not to get caught reading. That was especially rough for me since reading came right after breathing.
We always had a cat in the house. We swept first thing every morning, but the attic fan pulled any cat hair or dust into a swirled collection on the floor directly underneath the fan as the day went on. Daddy was working the graveyard shift with intention of getting up at eight pm for dinner and a little time to wake up before going to work . The big kids had everything done and busied ourselves in our rooms with homework. Daddy got on great with little kids. They couldn’t wait to see him get up. He just had trouble when kids got old enough to have a smart mouth or question his authority.
I was surprised to hear him whistling, in a rare good mood, as he strode barefoot down the breezy dark hall, headed for his recliner where Mother had his dinner waiting. Never missing a step, he kicked at the ball of fluff swirling under the attic fan. “AUGHHHH! AUGHHHHH!! AUGHHHH!!!!!” We all came flying out of our rooms to see him hopping back toward his bathroom, holding his right foot in the air. I thought he was cut. He put his foot in the sink, sputtering and muttering furiously. “Get me a rag! Get me a towel!” Mother pushed her way in, rescuing him with towels and soap as he scrubbed between his toes. He had mistaken a nasty kitty surprise for a ball of fluff.
Daddy was just as domineering with Mother as with us. He was the head of the house, meaning he made all the decisions about important things. He decided where they’d live, how they spent their money, how they spent their time. Mother had started out waiting on Daddy the day they married, just as God intended a decent wife to do. He never got himself a glass of water or drew his own bath from that day forward.
Daddy slept on the front side of the bed. The other was against the wall, leaving more room for bedroom furniture. Mother either had to climb out over Daddy or go out over the end of the bed. This worked fine till her first pregnancy. She was sick all the time, throwing up night and day. She spent a lot of her time, running for the bathroom with her hand over her mouth. Daddy still persisted in sleeping on the outside, nearest the bathroom, despite Mother’s urgent trips to the bathroom. He was the man! Mother changed his philosophy one night. Waking sick from a dead sleep, she was frantic to reach the bathroom. She lost the race this time, vomiting all over Daddy as he lay snoring. Daddy roared awake, spitting and spewing. “Well, G___ D____! It’s a good thing I had my mouth open. You’d have gotten it all over me!” Forever afterward, Mother got the outside.
Masonic activities were very important to Daddy. He never missed a meeting. He pestered Mother to join Eastern Star, but she had no interest in it. Occasionally, he convinced her to a special Masonic Activity with him. On this particular night, he’d groomed himself carefully, taking the extra time to put a special conditioner on his shiny, silver hair. It was fuller than most men’s hair, long on top and short on the sides. He knew he’d get a lot of compliments on it, as always. He worked the conditioner in, hurrying to get dressed. Daddy never left himself enough time to get ready, so always stressed about being late. Mother was ready early, waiting for Daddy. He was running around like a mad man, trying to get ready in too little time, and got even more nervous and irritable. It wasn’t long before he got snotty so Mother let him fend for himself. She didn’t want to go anyway. He pulled himself together and came flying out of the back of the house. Mother saw his hair sticking up like a bird’s nest, and his fly unzipped, but she didn’t say a word. She just got her purse and jacket and waited in the car. Daddy was in such a rush, he didn’t stop and admire himself in the big living room mirror like he usually did, just went straight to the car. Mother amused herself by sneaking peaks at his hair a few times, but never said a word. He was griped all the way over about Mother making him late.
Daddy transformed into a perfect gentleman when they got to the meeting, gallantly holding the door for Mother, introducing her to all his friends. He made the rounds with his bird’s nest hair and unzipped trousers, greeting all the wives of his friends. One of his friends called him to the side and tipped him off about his zipper problem. No one complimented his hair, but Daddy was gratified to notice a lot of second looks. That new conditioner must really make his hair look good. He felt good about the meeting. When they got in the car to go home, Daddy asked Mother if she knew his pants were unzipped. “I did,” she answered, “I also knew you hadn’t combed your hair, but assumed that was the way you wanted it.”