I’ve been trying to write down memories of my Dad. This one always makes me smile. I think laughter is therapeutic too. Dad certainly made life interesting.
I was talking to my cousin Paula one day. She lives a couple hours away so we often spend Sunday mornings on the phone chatting it up That morning we were talking about things that happened when we were kids.
My Grandmother (we called her Mama) lived with Paula’s family just a mile or two from our house. We were constantly in and out of each other’s houses and it often seemed like one family instead of two. The only difference was our Dads. Uncle Jerry was a kind and very responsible guy. My Dad was a tough construction worker type and always seemed to be in trouble with somebody. Well, mostly with my Mother.
Paula said, Remember that time your whole family had to come to our house in the middle of the night because you had a gas leak? For weeks, I was so worried it would happen to us too!
I said “A gas leak? I don’t remember that.” Paula is 4 years younger than me so if she can remember something, I usually can too. I racked my brain.
Paula, we did have to evacuate the house but it wasn’t because of natural gas. It was tear gas. There was silence on the phone. “Tear Gas??? You have to be kidding. How did you get tear gas? Mama always said it was a gas leak!”
I think that’s what my Mother told everyone. But here’s what really happened.
It was 60s and I was around 9 years old. Dad was traveling a lot for work. Often he was only home on weekends. There had been a series of riots that had broken out in cities around the country. I remember everyone being worried and with Dad out of town most of the time I guess he felt he might not be around if his family needed help.
Dad flew in on a Friday night and was excited to show Mom a present he had bought her. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a gun. Mommy shrieked. “Eddie you know how I feel about guns! And you flew with that in your pocket? You could have gotten in trouble!” Dad said it was no big deal. Rosie, you worry about the littlest things! And besides this was not just any pistol, it was a tear gas pistol!
They’re illegal, but I know this guy……
He showed her the box of tear gas cartridges and told her how she could shoot this and no one would get hurt! The intruders would just run out of our house!
Eddie, just how would WE get out of the house? We would be gassing ourselves too!
Dad looked so disappointed. But it’s a tear gas pistol! You don’t know how hard these are to get! And I know this guy….
Mom and Dad argued for a while and then the gun was put away. I didn’t see it again until that night. Dad was working locally and after work he brought a couple other elevator men in to have a few beers.. The were drinking Rolling Rock, smoking and laughing when my sister and I went to bed.
After a few hours of drinking and arguing about what came down to who had the biggest balls in the room, Dad said he had something to show them. He went and got the tear gas pistol. He told the story of how he got it (to this day really don’t want to know) and how it was illegal and how he flown home with it and all the extra canisters.
Not to be outdone, one of his buddies remarked ” Well, having it is one thing, but do you have the balls to shoot it?’ Dad said sure. If someone tried to come in he would shoot it! That’s why he got it.
His buddy laughed. I mean now! You don’t have the balls to shoot it now!
Dad looked him in the eye and shot the pistol into the air. Not once, not twice but the entire round.
The room was suddenly full of smoke. The men ran out of the house laughing and coughing. Mom came running down the steps! The entire downstairs was full of the smoke and it was rising up the stairs. Eddie! What the hell did you do?? Suddenly he stopped laughing. He knew he was in big trouble this time.
Mom got towels to cover her nose and mouth but tears were pouring down her face. She ran upstairs to get us. We were sleepy and confused. Mom wrapped our blankets around us and tried to keep our heads covered as she hurried us down the steps and out of the house. We huddled on the porch in our blankets. When we asked what was happening, Mom told us that our father was a idiot Nazi Bastard, that’s what was happening! (Mom liked to uh, remind Daddy of his German roots)
She made him go back in and open all the windows. It was 2 am and pretty chilly out on the front porch. Dad said she was making a big deal out of nothing. Its just a little tear gas, no harm done. Mom was out of her mind. What are we going to do now Eddie! We cant get in our house because you filled it with tear gas! What will the neighbors say? Did you hear about the Yeagers and their house being tear gassed? I will never live this down! We’ll be know as the family that gassed themselves! And who knows when we’ll be able to get back in. Eddie! This is it! You really did it this time!
Dad looked pitiful. Come on Rosie, it’s not that big a deal. These things happen. I bet this has happened to lots of people! Lets just take a nice ride over to your Mother’s.
To my Mothers??? And what will we tell her and my sister’s family at 2am? That our house is full of tear gas?? What will they say? Oh, Ok Rose! That tear gas can certainly be a problem, come on in? This went on for quite a while.
In the end we did go to Mama’s house. Mommy made us swear to keep our mouths shut about the tear gas. Mom told Mama and your parents that there was a gas leak. Our eyes were all red but Mommy told everyone that natural gas will do that. Kim and I shared your bed and Mom stayed with Mama. Dad slept in the car that night.
And in case you need to know, it takes a few days to really clear a suburban 3 bedroom house of 6 canisters of tear gas, but I hope that’s information you never need to know.