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Family Memories that Woke Me Up at 3AM in a Sweat



Looks about right.

When I was around 16, my family spent ten consecutive Sundays visiting the emergency room. After a mere three trips we were already on a first name basis with the entire staff at the local hospital. My poor father from whom I inherited my anger management issues, blew his top.

“All I want is ONE lousy Sunday without a ride to the emergency room,” he groused at record volume while driving home. My kid sister was bandaged like a mummy, wedged between him and my mother in the front seat of the car. Back then in the 1970’s, the term, “death seat” along with the concept of seat belts was relatively new. Also, the term, “death wish” although “primal scream” was very popular. 

It wasn’t the weekly visit to the local hospital, it was the fact that my sister (seven years my junior) always timed her accidents during the family Sunday lunch.

Sunday lunch was a big deal. The glass table in the kitchen, an established deathtrap, groaned under the weight of heavy plates, cutlery and plates of steaming hot food, fresh from the stove and oven a few feet away. Since the kitchen dining nook was tiny, the five of us squeezed our way around the table, pinned between the wrought iron table frame and the wood-paneled walls. We were also surrounded by our three well-loved, albeit feral, dogs waiting to snatch any errant scraps of food. 

The Sunday meal featured a ritual sacrifice of chicken skin. My father stripped the skin from the chicken in his plate which he flung to the dogs a la King Henry VIII. We were then serenaded with the resounding snarling, snapping and growling of the dogs fighting over a piece of fat.

Nothing like fond family memories.

No family lunch those ten consecutive Sundays was complete without my sister miraculously disappearing from the table, a feat even Houdini couldn’t accomplish, only to reappear minutes later at the kitchen entrance bloodied with a glaze of incomprehension across her face. 

“Dad, I think I hurt myself.”

Dad bellowed from the table end, causing the dogs to jump up, shake their fur and muzzles free of chicken grease and slobber, “How the hell did you leave the table?”

Honestly, I preferred that instead of witnessing my sister biting down on a glass, cutting through her lips into her face while I ate chicken wings. Alongside, the dogs danced a little jig in a frenzy for a winglet to make their way.

The 10 plagues were a cakewalk in comparison to what my sister did that disrupted our Sunday lunch and caused us to hustle to the hospital:

  Biting into a glass which sliced into her lips and mouth
  Walking into the garage and tipping over a mounted metal frame that boomeranged and hit her in the skull
  Falling from her bicycle, popping out both front teeth*
  Two incidents of breaking a bone
  Almost slicing off a finger

I can’t recall the remaining situations, but believe the “almost slicing off a finger” category may be one of my transgressions; I still have the scars. I suppressed most memories of my upbringing even though some bubble to the surface; hence this blog post.

My father, King of Nervous Anxiety, yelled the duration of the round-trip car rides in our wood-paneled station wagon filled with three kids not to mention three feral dogs in the partitioned back snarling, snapping and growling, “Can’t I ever have a peaceful Sunday?”

Times like this I always wondered whether my father came from a parallel universe. A peaceful Sunday in this family with non-stop TV blaring in the background, three wild children and wilder animals and an elegant mother losing her mind from the bedlam was not in the cards.

Yet, today, if any of these ER visits occurred, my father would’ve been arrested as a possible child abuser or neglectful parent. Perhaps then he would’ve gotten his peace and quiet.



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*My mother jammed both of them back into my sister’s gums. “Look, they took root,” she proudly stated more than once, ignoring their crookedness.

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