My Dad was in the War, way back before me or Deanna were born, and way back before he met Mom. His brothers were in the War, too: Uncle Frank and Uncle Merle, and Uncle Glenn. Uncle Ellis was in the Korean War. Uncle Gerald never had to go because the President said Grandma had enough sons in the War. Grandma said ‘enough is enough’, and even though that made no sense, I knew just what she meant.
Dad told me he was in the War way back before I was even a twinkle in his eye. I don’t believe that one minute, ’cause I can’t imagine my Dad without a twinkle in his eye. Same thing for his brothers: blue eyes like the sky, that danced like they had stars, in broad daylight, if you can imagine that.
Dad and his brothers never talked about being in the war, except that Dad got a purple heart for getting his appendix out, and once Dad found a German shepherd dog that he kept around for a while and that’s how he fell in love with German shepherds. I asked Dad if the War was scary, and he said fighting is always scary, but he was safe, ’cause he was out in front of the fighting, laying communication lines down.
Mom said Dad got to be Catholic in the War, but Grandma and Grandpa weren’t too worried about it, ’cause men do lots of silly things when they’re away from home, so they were pretty sure all that Catholic stuff would wear off when he got back home and came to his senses. Then he met Mom and being Catholic stuck like glue, there was no hope for him anymore. Grandma wasn’t even sure Dad knew what he was promising when he got married, ’cause the whole thing was in Latin. I guess Grandma never took the time to get to know my Mom that well, ’cause if she did, she would know Mom would clear things up if Dad had any doubts about what he promised.
On Memorial Day, all my Uncles and their families got together for a picnic. I just remember lots of laughing and talking about growing up together. No War talk. Except for one thing: Dad and his brothers talked about how good-looking they were in their uniforms. Then pretty soon they were placing bets about getting in those handsome uniforms again. This got Grandma all pinch-faced, ’cause non-catholics don’t believe in gambling. Every year they bet about the same old thing: by Labor Day the brother who lost the most weight got treated to a steak dinner and a hot fudge sundae, while the other brothers sat and watched.
I never heard Mom or my aunts talk about losing weight or getting beautiful, the ways those brothers did. The women just sat around talking about neat stuff they could make out of Jello, like Aunt Millie’s no-bake cheese cake that tasted like sour milk on graham crackers; but for some reason, grown-ups liked it and always asked for the recipe ’til pretty soon, I could count on that stuff being at every darned picnic we were at. And Aunt Phillis talking about how cucumbers were always repeating on her, then somebody would chime in about radishes doing that, until they were all talking about what they couldn’t eat anymore. I hoped I never got so old that good food made me burp.
Dad built a big huge bonfire for roasting weenies. I loved the way that bonfire smelled, and the sparks flying up to the sky, but Dad built it so big, it was hard to get my weenie close enough to cook it, without my face and arm feeling like it was getting sunburned by the bonfire. Lots of times, I turned my head to the side, then my stick sunk down and the weenie got up against a log and got all ashy. Dad said I had to keep it in there until I heard it split. Not everybody brought the good Koegel’s vienna weenies, made from natural casings. I only knew about the difference ’cause Dad said that Uncle Merle’s kids made a bee-line for our weenies as soon as the first dog sizzled and split, and left all their no-good skinless dogs to everybody else. I loved the smell and taste of those weenies roasted on an open fire. In the bun and yummy. Sometimes Mom cooked the same kind of weenies in the house by boiling them; that way gave me a headache every single time. I only like weenies roasted on a fire.
Besides my favorite hotdogs, I ate potato salad, devilled eggs, dill pickles, potato chips, Kool-Aid and Jello with just bananas, not that awful cheesecake stuff. I had to watch out for other stuff, too, ’cause sometimes those aunts would pull a fast one and put stuff in my favorite food that didn’t belong there, like pickle relish in the potato salad, or raisins in the oatmeal cookies. Then I had to be polite and eat it anyway. I could trust the watermelon, there was no way to play tricks with that. That sweet watermelon was the best, juiciest dessert that could ever be. Teacher said there was as much water in a head of lettuce as in a whole watermelon. I believed her, ’cause she was always telling me interesting stuff, and her eyes never danced like Dad’s did. Teacher’s eyes stayed steady all the time; she never joked around, ever. Still and all, watermelon was still way, way better to eat than lettuce, any old day.
When the day was almost over, and everybody sat around barely able to move, stuffed to the gills, Dad brought out the bathroom scale and all the brothers got weighed and the numbers written down. Of course nobody could believe how much anybody weighed, and eventually somebody blamed the scale for the heavy weights. Lots of laughing and joking around happened after that.
By the end of summer, this is what Dad looked like.
Now that’s something to make a person proud.
Yes, it’s summertime. Shorts are out, and too tight, once again. I’m starting up a diet tomorrow. I just hope I can figure out how to trim down and still have an ice cream cone once in a while. Gotta go: I think I smell steaks on the grill!