My father loved my mother. My mother loved my father. They knew each other. Get it? Knew, like the biblical know. Or so I thought. You gotta remember this was the 50s and 60s. Fairy tale America. Leave it to Beaver. That kind of life. No one talked about their problems. No one admitted depression. Men went to work; women raised the kids.
One night, my dad got home late from work. I could tell that my mom wasn’t happy, but she didn’t say anything. Everyone ate dinner quietly, and then I went out in the back yard. I don’t quite remember why. Next thing I know my dad comes out with two beers. I was 14, so I didn’t understand why he had two. Sure, he’d drink a beer or two every once in a while, but not two at once. When my dad offered me a beer, I couldn’t believe it.
“Ever had one?” I remember him asking.
I hadn’t and told him so. Unable to believe that my dad was letting me drink a beer with him, I was ready to tell him anything he wanted to know if it meant keeping the moment alive. Where his missing Playboys where, that I saw him use binoculars to look at the neighbor lady in her bedroom as she changed, or that I overheard him and my mother argue about her hiding her smoking from him.
And it was all I could do to not think about telling my friends at school the next day that my dad let me drink a beer.
I picked up the bottle and the bottle opener. Seeing me hesitate, he placed his hand on my hand and together we opened my bottle. Next he opened his bottle. He clinked his against mine, and as I saw him bring the bottle to his mouth smoothly, I rushed mine to my lips as if there was a prize for drinking at precisely the same moment. I remember he had a smirk on his face as we enjoyed those first gulps together.
My father then looked off into the night sky. I could tell he was thinking about how to bring up something very important. Recently he had begun talking to me like it was finally time to impart his learned wisdom before it was too late. I was the oldest, so I made sense of this change in his demeanor by telling myself that once he shared his wisdom with me, I’d be able to pass it to my brothers and sisters–your aunts and uncles.
Right when he was about to begin, my mother opened the back door.
“You gave him a beer? What’s wrong with you?” she said angrily. She grabbed the beer from my hand and he immediately took hold of her wrist with one hand as he took back my beer with the other. He told her to mind her business and go back inside.
Handing me back my beer he said, “Good lord, what has gotten into her tonight?”
After a pause, as if there was a time-limit for what he wanted to say, he frantically told me, “You want to know the secret to women? They don’t make sense. That’s it. You’ll never figure them out, not even one of them. So don’t even try.”
Next thing I knew, my mother came back out with her own bottle.
“The kids are all in bed. All but this one,” I remember her saying as she indulged.
I’ll never forget the pride in my dad’s eyes as he knowingly looked at me.