The Contest

June 25, 2007 at 8:19 PM (Alchoholism) (, )

Words and/or actions can hurt…and they don’t necessarily stop once one is a grown up…

It’s 1991 and I’m sitting at a small, bright kitchen table at my father’s girlfriend’s condo.

I’ve just advised my father, who is slouching in a corner by the fridge, that I’ve had my first round of chemo for Hodgkin’s disease…

The girlfriend is out somewhere…

“Why would you *do* that..It’s gonna come back in fifteen years and kill ya anyway…What’s the point?”

Had I been a juror, and him still an attorney making an argument rather than a drunk, making an @ss out of himself..I’d have busted out laughing or slapped him.

As it was I was just appalled. But there was more…

“Well, your husband and I, see…I’ve just found out I’ve got chirrosis of the liver, and I’m dying of’t.”

“We’ll have a contest to see which one of us dies first, him or me…”

My father should have said that absolutely insane nonsense in my house, because then I would have had the satisfaction of a loud, ” Get the F*ck Out Of My House You *********tard!”…and the husband could have mustered up just enough strength to throw him out of the house.

I would have paid real money to see that.

But since this was his girlfriend’s condo, and before cell phones…I just went into the living room called my spouse and said….”Can you please come and bring me home because my father is being a complete ****************.”

(I’ve always been annoyed that because I’ve never mastered driving, I couldn’t do a movie style argument with anybody.  I can’t ‘flounce off in a huff,’ or run out the door and take the car and pull it, tires screaming, out of the driveway…)

I remember that night at home. Husband was uncharacteristically calmer and quieter than usual. and we had a long time for cuddling…

Because I made sure I told my husband who needed to win that ‘contest.’

It affected him though, also…And the next New Years I had a feeling he’d been saving up some payback of a sort…

He and my father were in the condo living-room watching some game or another and myself and the girlfriend were doing the kitchen thing…(99% the long suffering girlfriend because she was a great cook.)

We ate our meal in the living room with the games on, and my father kept on drinking…Then he began yelling at everybody and acting stupid, and being profoundly inappropriate to everyone in general and me in particular.

(I lose any and all feminist credential by what I’m about to repeat…but I can’t help that. I can’t go back in time and parse why the whole exchange was sexist and demeaning on both sides. I can’t, because I was *glad* to hear it.)

My husband said,

“Don’t you *talk* to my wife that way..”

…and inside my head I was cheering. (Not for the possessive “my wife.” I would have been fine with my name…)

That was the first time anyone outside of his biological relatives had let my father have it for the way he treated *me.* Not my mother. Not his other family. Not his co-workers.

Someone was calling him on his crap regarding the way he behaved toward *me.*

And though my husband had his own huge case of Bad Temper Rarely Used to Good Effect….

That day he stood up for me both figuratively and literally. (since we then stood and calmly left the place…)

My father lived about ten months after my husband passed away…

But I still know who the winner was (is!)


  1. Gerald said,

    There is nothing wrong with enjoying that feeling of having someone take your side. I think that is one of those times when we feel least alone. When I was young, I had a particularly hateful aunt who occasionally decided to stop emotionally abusing her own kids long enough to verbally attack me. I now know this had more to do with the internal politics between her and my father, but a six-year-old doesn’t understand that – especially one who had parents who were usually fair and therefore generally tended to accept the assessment of adult authority figures at face value. I can still feel that.

    I can also still feel the vindication as my five-foot tall mother walked into the room on the last occasion that happened and let loose with “You do NOT talk to my son that way!” I was ushered out of the room for the rest of that coversation, after which we went home. We kept visiting the family, but my aunt didn’t take anymore opportunities to spell out my shortcomings.

  2. bridgett said,

    The first visit with my husband’s parents was an experience…it ended with his mom telling me that I could pay for my beach vacation by scrubbing all the toilets and that’s the only reason they’d invited me along.

    I froze up. Now I realize that this was what passes for humor among the very dry and somewhat vicious, but after a week of being abraded and degraded by snobby strangers, I had HAD IT. Bless his heart, without so much as thinking twice, my husband took his mother out of the room and in low but clear tones insisted that she apologize to his guest. NOW. It takes guts to stand up to your own mother and I’ve always appreciated that he was willing to take this formidable woman on rather than to see me hurt and shamed, even if I should have gotten a thicker skin.

    Unfortunately, it’s not the last time that he’s had to do that…

  3. imfunny2 said,

    Bri, I salute you…

    (deep breath) If that had been *my* MIL….

  4. Attila the Mom said,

    It’s a g**dammed shame we can’t pick our families.

    I’m so very very sorry this happened to you.


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