In this excerpt from Nice Children Stolen from Car, you will perhaps see this same trait in my father. I call this one:
copyright Barbara Allen 2009
Our father often tells us how he wanted to be a priest but chose, instead, to become our father.
My sister Cindy and I think this was a poor career decision on his part. He should have been a priest; at least then fatherhood would have been excluded from his list of life options. His temper is too hot and too unpredictable for any parent; we’re never quite sure just what will set him off or how violently he will react. When our cat playfully scattered papers in one of his piles of stuff, our father slammed its head repeatedly against the wall before flinging it through the air out the front door. We have no desire to become his next missiles and do our best to stay out of his way.
The fuse of his temper used to be especially short on Sundays. That was before he became a deacon, when our family used to sit together at Mass: me, Cindy, our three sisters and brother crowded into the pew, our mother and father on either end. Our father had no tolerance for less than perfect behavior: we kids had to sit ramrod straight with no whispering, no nudging or poking, no crinkling of church bulletins, no scratching of legs, noses or other body parts, no fidgeting. Yet, try as we might, our behavior never seemed quite good enough. Once, our brother Stevie, a born fidgeter, was just a little too restless during Mass. Our father hauled him out of the pew, flung him out the side door, and began kicking him with the point of his dress shoe before the door had a chance to close behind them, the entire church looking on.
But now our father is a deacon, a position in the Catholic Church which he informs us is much more important than it is in some other churches, where you only get to pass the collection basket. A Catholic deacon, our father tells us, is as important as the priest, maybe even more important, since priests are becoming few and far between. We don’t care much about that anyway; what really matters is that he doesn’t sit in the pew with us anymore, monitoring our every itch and twitch for punishment purposes. Now each Sunday finds him on the altar, wearing his special deacon robes and his look of extra-holiness as he assists during Mass. His duties vary: he may do a reading, give a long-winded homily or hand out Communion.
My best friend Rose tells me her mother will not receive Communion from my father, whom she refers to as “that hypocrite.” She walks, instead, all the way to the other side of the church, where someone else is handing out the Host.
I have always liked Rose’s mom, but after I hear about the Communion boycott, I think I might even love her.