Crushed Pineapple

While hanging with my friend the other day, I espied a can of Dole crushed pineapple in her pantry.

“Oh my,” I said. “That brings back quite a few memories.”

It did indeed. When I was in my early teens, my dad was diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic. That meant he had to watch his sugar intake. Part of Dad’s problem was that he loved fruit: fresh pears, apples, strawberries and then the dried ones: dates, figs, mangos, pineapple. He had to cut down on his fruit intake which he didn’t like to do.

Sometimes, way after dinner, I’d catch my dad with a pear or apple and a sharp knife. With precision, he sliced off pieces. To shut me up from ratting him out to Mom, he shared his fruit, impaling the juicy slice with the blade and extending his arm as a peace offering. In silence, we’d munch the fruit  pieces together.

That was the only bonding we ever truly did. Outside of when my father recounted how he met my mother.

“I was a mere young lad walking back home from the local candy store,” he said.

From the kitchen, my mother groaned. “Here we go again!”

Unflappable, Dad continued, “When suddenly I was jumped by three hooligans who threw a potato sack over my head. Before I could react, they picked me up and threw me down in the back of a car. Minutes later, I was shoved down a corridor with a rifle barrel in my back. When they removed the sack, it was time for me to say, ‘I do,’ to this older woman. Your mom.”

In actuality, Mom was 12 years younger than Dad. Throughout my life, he must’ve recounted at least a few thousand versions of that story. He got a lot of mileage out of that one while I was a teen which drove Mom nuts.

Since my Dad wasn’t permitted sweets, and he LOVED sweets as dessert, my mom ended up giving him a small dish of canned crushed pineapple to sate his appetite.

Perhaps Mom served the crushed pineapple in homage to another story my father recounted. During World War II he was stationed in Okinawa as a medic. When the US declared war, my uncle and my father signed up together. My uncle, ten years’ my father’s senior, finished law school and my father finished college at 18 as he graduated from high school at 14, a boy genius.

Let me add that the brothers came from a conservative Jewish family. My father nearly starved to death his first few months at boot camp because he was kosher. He was shipped out to Okinawa, yet my uncle never left state-side. Their sister offered to do laundry before they left. My father was already prepared, but my uncle took advantage of his sister’s services. She added too much bleach, my uncle had an allergic reaction on his genitals and ended up interrogating war prisoners as part of the OSS. He stayed in the OSS which then became the CIA as a covert operator the rest of his life.

{We only found out about this when he thought he was dying in the 1970’s and told my father. Yet, it made sense, especially since he sold widgets at Sears Roebuck, yet traveled at a feather’s drop to Europe.}

Getting back to dad’s story - my grandmother wanted to do a grand gesture to show my father she understood and appreciated that he enrolled in the Army. She had no idea where he was stationed, so she scrimped and saved on her food coupons until she had enough to purchase a pineapple which she then had shipped to my father.

“A pineapple?” said my father when he opened the box from state-side. He looked out his window and saw pineapples all over the place.

It took a long time, months, to break my father. Every night Mom served him a little dish of crushed pineapple and the following day he’d weave a different version of how they met. Finally, exasperated, Dad broke.

He bellowed, “Judy, what the hell? Can’t you give me something else for dessert?”

Mom smiled. “Not a problem, Art.”

The following evening, with a smile, she served him a little dish of crushed pineapple. Blue this time.

My parents didn’t believe in divorce.

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