Travels with Dad
—-This is a story of a complex relationship with my father, Al, who I came to love and understand after he was diagnosed with dementia.—-
One day, when I was 14, my sister, Mary, proposed that we run away. She actually insisted, and I stupidly agreed. I went along with anything she suggested. After all, she was older than me, and knew so much more about the world than I. She was very authoritative, and knew how we should conduct ourselves and our little lives.
I know. It sounds like I’m blaming someone else for my mistakes. Well, I am!
To her defense, though, she didn’t know any better either. We were just kids.
The reason we were running away had to do with someone in the neighborhood accusing her of stealing money. To this day, she maintains she didn’t do it. I think she was afraid that she would be held accountable for a crime she didn’t commit, and refused to let it get to that level.
So, off we went.
We ran, and ran, and ran, until we were about 4 mile away from home. We didn’t have a definitive plan when we started out, but during our excursion, we decided that our first destination would be the home of a family friend who had taken a deep interest in all of the “Fiore-Five” kids over the years. We thought she would understand. And she did, but she also knew that our parents would be worried.
We arrived at her house around 9:00 pm. After we explained our circumstances, she told us that she had to contact our parents. She phoned them to let them know where we were, and sent us off back home.
We ran, and ran, and ran. We were about one tenth of a mile away from home, running through a field, when I stepped on a skunk! It sprayed me. I was wearing brand new pair of Levi’s and a new pair of shoes.
Not really sure what to do at that point, we rested in another field, trying to think of a plan. Mary wouldn’t come anywhere near me because of the skunk odor. I wanted to get away from me! We communicated by yelling to each other. A decision was made to go home. It was the middle of the night, and we were tired.
We went home, and all the doors were locked….except for the back porch screened door. We got on to the porch, but the sliding glass door into the kitchen/dining room was locked. There was a little serving window into the kitchen from the porch that we discovered was unlocked. I was smaller, so I was the one who crawled through as far as I could, and reached over to unlock the sliding glass door. We were in.
Now what? My parents heard us (and smelled me). My mother came down stairs. She couldn’t believe that a skunk sprayed me and my new clothes. She was very upset and angry about the whole thing. She sent us to bed, and made sure we were up for school the next day, which was only a few hours away. No time for a shower in the morning. I put on different clothes, but still smelled like a skunk.
So I got to go to school tired and smelling like a skunk, and Mary got to go to school just tired. It hardly seemed fair, since the whole escapade was her idea.
My father was tired of his spirited, reckless daughters, and wasn’t shy about letting us know how he felt. His first priority was to protect our mother from us. He had no patients with bad behavior, and as time went on, he developed more and more rules, as an attempt to control us. The more he attempted to reign over us, the more we pushed back. His directives were met with an “Oh, really!” attitude.
My relationship with him was nothing less than adversarial during those teenage years.