“Dad, do you have a minute?”
“Did you think I was easy to live with?”
“We had our moments, but by and large you were a saint.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Well, what is it, Little Boy? What’s bothering you?”

I wasn’t calling my father to complain so much as to confirm I wasn’t missing something. Indeed, in sixty-plus years I’d roomed with Grandma Cele (Hopkins Avenue), my brother (Bayard Road), three anti-semites (in East Lansing), and even the trio of Fenton, Fischer and Wieder (Drackett Tower). I’d stayed with Harriet’s mom, my father’s sister, and Meredith’s parents (with nary an issue, mind you). Easy, I am….going with the flow…never making demands.  Hell, the ex herself liked living with me; it was the marriage she hated.

“Nothing really, but…”
“Spit it out!”
“It’s just that the people who I know love me most pick at me over nonsense.”
“Maybe it’s not nonsense to them.”

(Really? Was my father really going to push back?)

“It can’t be me, Dad.”
“Let’s hear.”
“When we lived together did I ever criticize your banana sandwiches?”
“This is not about me, Sonny Boy. What’s going on?”

So I shared with him how one of my kids had questioned my use of Pepsodent toothpaste…

“Was it because you left it on bathroom tile? Are they still hocking you about brushing in the shower?”
“No—it was the brand itself. ‘Who uses this?’ I was asked.”
“Did you sing ‘em the jingle ‘You’ll wonder where the yellow went when —“
“Of course, but all I got was a reference to the Dark Ages…I mean why would anyone care what toothpaste I use?”
“Well, it’s their issue.  Is that all?”

So I spoke too of how when I visit my daughter I get lectures about sleeping with TV and lights on…

“Does she know that you eat in bed?” he asked.
“I try not to these days — and besides, she doesn’t know.”
“What about the popcorn she found your last trip?”
“She TOLD you?”
“Don’t worry,” he comforted. “I reminded her that you are her only father and that for the few times you’re out there each year—“  “Thanks.”

“Puhleeeze.  She laughed and told me how YOU tell her YOU wish I was still alive to blow smoke in your face.”                                                   “So she’s ok with the popcorn, then?” (I asked him).                                                                                                                                                           “I wouldn’t try it again, hotshot.”

One thing about the old man: he always got it. Why should anyone care what toothpaste I use or if I sleep with the lights on?

“What about Dick Baskin’s sister? he asked —and before my response: “Did I know her?”
“DAD! Even I didn’t know her.”
“Does she bother you with nickel-dime stuff?”

So I thrilled my Dad explaining how when Carrie and I moved in we’d compromised. Television (she’d agreed) could play all night; lights, on the hand, would be off.

“Wonderful,” he mused, “that she never complains.”
“Well I wouldn’t say never, but she’s pretty easy.”
“Does she tell you to eat over the table?”
“To take smaller bites?”
“Not really.”
“Then what is it? Maybe it’s you?”

Mulling it over a bit, I determined he should know Carrie with all her frailties….

“She’s always telling me to aim.”
“Yeah, you know— in the bathroom.”

My father quieted. I could see he was thinking.

He must have had an epiphany — I mean he put out his cigarette, and all— and there was this gleam in his eye…

“Did you suggest to her you might buy a urinal?”


  1. alan wieder says:

    This is so funny as I was wondering the other night, out loud but to only one other person, whether or not Carrie put up, yes put up, with your not so traditional sleeping habits. If you recall I was definitive when we once roomed together in Vegas – NO LIGHTS, NO TV! Anyway, I must say that I am surprised that Carrie was more giving. YOU REALLY DO HAVE GOOD FORTUNES.

  2. Up From Dysfunction says:

    I am aware of my good fortunes and need neither the light of day nor the “talking heads” on tv to tell me. That having been said, I was able to sleep through the nightly bickering between Fenton and you, my friend.
    Stuart: “Alan, buffaloes are instinct”.
    Alan: “That’s EXTINCT, you moron.”
    Stuart: “No, instinct”.
    Alan: When are you going to shut the fuck up?”

    Treinish stayed down the hall because of you two.

  3. alan wieder says:

    I would treasure an entire series on those conversations! You know what, REAL childhood/teen friendships have NO ideology. They’re all heart

  4. Up From Dysfunction says:

    The ideology WAS friendship. In 1969, when you moved me up from 9 to1 in the order (at Gordon Park) so that I could have enough at bats for the title…. I still have the trophy!

  5. Stuart says:

    I remember singing “Duke of Earl” over and over again on one of those nights . How could you forget Ipana toothpaste and Bucky Beaver?

  6. Up From Dysfunction says:


    I sent the link of the Ipana commercial (which you provided) to the child of mine that had issues with the Pepsodent. The response, via immediate email was:
    “2015 not 1955″. There’s a point to it, at some level. Sixty years … it would have been like Bessie Zane talking to us in 1955 about Grover Cleveland’s inauguration.

  7. Stuart says:

    Okay. Hide the Aqua Velva and Brylcream. Ditch all the episodes of Amos and Andy.

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