Once we got to St. Augustine Daddy drove around to find a hotel for us to stay. Because it was off season there were plenty of hotels with occupancies. As Daddy was driving I noticed how deserted the town looked and was wondering what the hell I was going to do there. It was too cold for the beach which was not my thing anyway. However, anything I found interesting looked closed.
When Daddy found a hotel he liked which meant cheap, we emptied the car and headed to our room. It was the basic room with two queen size beds and a bathroom. After we placed our things where Daddy wanted them he said he needed to rest for a bit. He suggested when he woke up we could see what there was to do. Daddy’s tone had changed. He was happy. But that didn’t mean it couldn’t change in an instant but I was hopeful he’d stay in a good mood.
While he rested (went to sleep) I watched TV. I was so comfortable because there was no pressure coming from him to have to do something. I could just lie on the bed, watch TV and zone out. Since it was late by the time we had arrived in St. Augustine and then even later when Daddy woke up, he actually discussed with me about grabbing dinner at an I-Hop and calling it a night. I was game. Hell, I was a very tired teenager. Sleeping for two days would have been fine with me.
At dinner Daddy showed me the sites to see on a local map and asked what I wanted to do. Almost every single thing I was interested in doing was indeed closed. We narrowed our options down to the Ripley’s Believe it or not Wax Museum and a couple of fort type places. After dinner we returned to the hotel and went to bed.
The next morning we woke up at 11:00 am. It was the best night sleep I had in a very long time. By the time Daddy was up and finished getting ready, it was already lunchtime. After we ate we agreed to visit the forts which was what we did. He was in a good mood. In fact when we arrived at the one fort I had suggested and saw it was closed for the season, he let out one of his great laughs. It was comical because all of the places I suggested were closed. Daddy even apologized to me for not being able to see the things I wanted to see. With nothing else to do we headed to the Wax Museum which was neither of ours interest. Daddy suggested we be adventurous though and make the best of it.
While walking through the museum Daddy and I found everything humorous. The place was really so cheesy and the folks touring it were so serious. I’d see someone who was a tourist and I’d invent a story on why they were there. It made Daddy laugh which made me so happy. I knew his temper could switch on a dime but I wanted to just soak up the moment and not think about it. Daddy wanted to go back to the hotel to rest which was what we did after the museum. Gosh, this was probably the most sleep Daddy had gotten on a long time too if you know what I mean? His women kept him busy (wink, wink). As he was taking his clothes off (he only slept in his boxers) I placed my eyeglasses on my bed and went to the restroom. I only needed my glasses for some long distance seeing. When I came back Daddy was sitting on his bed looking through the phonebook. I walked over to sit on my bed. Just as I did I heard a crunch sound come from underneath my rear. Without moving I looked at Daddy and said, “Please don’t tell me I just sat on my eyeglasses?” He peered over his reading glasses. As he looked at me his body started to shake with laughter. He laughed and laughed and finally was able to say, “OK, I won’t tell you but you just sat on your eyeglasses.” Tears were falling from Daddy’s face he was laughing so hard. He stopped for a moment and said, “You and your Momma both had Touchas’s (butt in Yiddish) that enjoyed sitting on things.” Then he laughed some more. Apparently, Momma had a habit of sitting on Daddy’s hats and I guess me sitting on my glasses brought up good and funny memories for him. I couldn’t help but laugh with him. Thank goodness I didn’t need to wear my glasses all of the time and even more so that it didn’t make him mad.
Once we were able to stop laughing Daddy took a nap while I watched TV and relaxed too. When he woke up he asked me where I wanted to eat. I didn’t know and had not a clue what to suggest. So I asked him what he wanted. He got a little perturbed and told me to decide. I tried to joke it off by telling him I couldn’t decide because if I picked the place they would be closed for the season. Well, let’s just say our joking and laughing part of the trip was at that point over. Daddy did not find my statement to be humorous at all and it only made him angrier. I asked what options did we have and to that question he flipped out. I couldn’t figure out what had happened from the time before his nap to the time after his nap. Had he called someone during that time and that’s what turned his mood? What was wrong with Daddy? I kept telling myself I couldn’t cry. The more I thought about our nice day and then Daddy’s sudden burst of anger, I couldn’t hold back my tears. To keep from crying in front of him I went to the bathroom, turned on the shower and cried. As I was sitting on the tub crying Daddy banged on the bathroom door with his fist. He yelled through the door I had 15 minutes to finish getting ready because he had made dinner reservations. I did my best to control my emotions and got ready as fast as I could. When I was finished getting ready Daddy looked at me with disgust. He said, “That’s what you are wearing? It looks terrible. You look like you’re wearing rags.” Alright folks! In over a year Daddy has not bought me one piece of clothing and he has the nerve to insult my dress attire? And on top of that this was the 80’s where acid washed jeans and off the shoulder shirts were the rage. Suddenly though, he found issues with my clothes when this was how I had dressed for quite a while? How dare he I kept thing in my head.
I looked at him and said, “Sorry you don’t like my rags but I do.” To that Daddy yelled that I should be sorry for what I’m wearing. Reminding him he had a reservation he got angrier because he felt I was trying to shut him up. Um, well, HELL YES!
We finally got into the car and were on our way to the restaurant. We were 45 minutes late. During our entire drive Daddy didn’t let up with his insulting remarks which made the restaurant seem hours away. When we arrived at the restaurant, Daddy parked. I was crying. He told me I was to get a hold of myself because he wasn’t going to take me in there acting like I was. As I learned to do I sucked in my emotions and into the restaurant we went. It was strange though. There weren’t any cars in the parking lot and we were the only customers in the restaurant. That didn’t phase Daddy. The Matradee escorted us to a table. I thought I was going to laugh when he asked if that table was alright. I so wanted to ask for a more private table where there wasn’t so much noise.
The Matradee held my chair as I sat down and then helped me scoot to the table. He handed us our menus and took our drink order. When he walked away Daddy told me we were eating in the kind of restaurant where he/the man orders for everyone at the table. With Momma having instilled in both me and my sister a feminist ideology I questioned him. He got mad and told me to shut up because I knew nothing about fancy restaurants or about the etiquette. First of all, it was always Momma who would teach Daddy about etiquette and she’d get so mad because he wouldn’t listen. She was from an upper class Southern, Jewish family raised by a nanny. Her uncle was the CEO of a national company. She traveled with them and attended many functions. The way she dressed, behaved and every aspect of her life was formed around being proper. Daddy didn’t even know half of what Momma knew and he was going to teach me? Momma used to get onto him with how he held his fork and ate because she felt it was not proper. What did he even know?
I shut up and let Daddy order but the look on my face clearly showed I was not happy. Daddy decided what we were eating and told the waiter. When he arrived with the first course I placed my cloth napkin on my lap, took the fork farthest to my left and started eating. Quickly, Daddy began complaining I didn’t put my napkin on my lap properly. I argued I had it in my lap and asked what the hell other ways are there? Well, my sudden proper father didn’t like that I didn’t shake the cloth napkin out out on my left side before placing it in my lap. Instead, I opened it up while it was in my lap. I rolled my eyes. Daddy was furious And told me eye rolling was rude.
The waiter returned to our table and left bread with individually cut pieces of homemade butter. I took one piece, buttered my bread and took a bite. It was yummy. Before I could take a second bite Daddy stopped me. He told me that wasn’t the proper way to butter and eat bread so I needed to watch him. Ok, the man takes one roll, tears off a piece which is basically almost the entire roll, butters that piece and threw it into his mouth. While his mouth was full he told me I was not to spread the butter over the entire roll but I was to tear one piece off at a time. I looked at Daddy and said,”Don’t chew with your mouth full.” He kicked my chair from underneath the table.
When the appetizer arrived he complained I was holding my fork improperly. See, Daddy held his fork parallel and close to his food where the curve of the tines faced the food. Momma called his way a more European way of eating which in her Southern, polite nature was saying his way was wrong. I told Daddy I had never eaten that way and I wasn’t going to start. He was furious and started telling me how I’d never be able to eat in the home of someone with status. He went on to tell me I was going to be a pee on and a loser because I refused to listen to him to learn how to eat properly. I kept trying to hold back the tears. And being the only customers in the damn place I felt as if everyone was watching us for sure. After all it wasn’t as if Daddy could keep his voice down.
Our main meal arrived and I grabbed the next fork in line from my left side, took my knife from the right side of my plate and started eating. I began cutting my meat as I had since I was about 8 years old by holding my fork in my left hand, placing it into the meat with the tines curved down towards the meat, holding it a little tilted towards me and then cutting the meat from the back of the fork. However for whatever reason, this night was different than all other nights and Daddy didn’t approve. This night I was to stick my fork in the meat (tines curve faced down) and tilt my fork to be more parallel with the meat. My pointer finger was to be pushing against the bottom of the handle and at the top of where the curve of the tines were. In front of the fork I was to cut my meat. Daddy sat there and criticized every little move I made. If I didn’t tilt my fork far enough or stick out my pointer finger he was right there to correct me and not in a pleasant way. By this point I was crying and wasn’t hungry anymore. I put my utensils down on my plate and just sat there quietly. Daddy was furious he had taken me to a very, nice and expensive restaurant and I ruined it by being rude, disrespectful and unappreciative. And as usual I was giving him heartburn which was the thanks he got for spending time with me and taking me on a vacation. He felt he didn’t deserve any of it.
As he kept berating me I started thinking about Momma and how I wished she’d come back. Of course I knew she was dead but a young girl missing her mom could dream, couldn’t she? Not that the meal wasn’t long enough already but Daddy had to order dessert and a dessert drink to make it even longer. And I’ve gotta say for the 3 hours we were at that restaurant we were the only ones there. It just felt weird to me. It was more of a place you’d take your spouse, not your teenage daughter. Also, I felt as if he was supposed to have met someone there because Daddy asked the waiter to keep an extra place setting at the table. And for my Jewish friends out there I don’t think it was for Elijah. When I asked him why, he’d not tell me and only criticized me for asking too many stupid questions. I wanted to leave. He told me we’d leave when he was good and ready. After he finished his dessert and while drinking his after dinner drink, he lit up his cigar. Talking about etiquette. He so politely flicked his ashes on the dessert plate when there was a perfectly good ash tray on the table. I loved the waiter who came over, took Daddy’s dessert plate and placed the ash tray in front of him. Then he turned his head where only I could see his face and gave me a little smile and wink. It was always those tiny little moments from others that gave me the reassurance.
While Daddy was smoking his cigar he kept looking over his shoulder towards the entrance and looking at his watch. Who was supposed to meet him there? And whoever it was why wouldn’t he tell me? After all if she had shown up It wouldn’t have been a secret. Even though I would have loved for Daddy to have been distracted by having someone there the thought was gross to think about Daddy flirting while I was the third wheel. And even though he had done it to me before, I was never used to it nor did I ever like it. The only idea I had as to why he wouldn’t tell me anything was because he had told me the trip was for us to spend time together. He didn’t want me to know he had actually been scheming to go to St. Augustine to meet a woman. The truth was though, he was a TERRIBLE schemer/ liar.
Before he finished his cigar he said angrily,”What the hell. Let’s go. I can’t stand sitting here any longer looking at you.” As he put out his cigar he told me I ruined a good cigar because he couldn’t even enjoy it with all I had done to him that evening.
We got back to the hotel around 11. I hated I had to be in the same room with him. He told me I was to be up bright and early because we needed to get home. Needless to say, he didn’t have to tell me twice. I was packed and ready by 7am. It took Daddy another 4 hours before he was ready to leave but I figured that would happen. During that entire time I had to stand around and help him all while he nastily called me names because as usual I wouldn’t do it right. Once we were packed and on the road I ignored Daddy by sleeping (or at the very least pretending to sleep) almost the entire way home.
Finally back home in the late afternoon on a Sunday Daddy told me he had work he had to do in a town about an hour away. Funny, he had not mentioned it but oh so common. He said it wasn’t necessary for him to bring his things inside the house because he’d just wash his dirty clothes in the town he was headed. He asked if I needed any money or anything else from him. When I told him I didn’t need anything he gave me a hug and a kiss, told me he loved me and headed out for another few weeks. I lied on the couch and watched tv in peace and quiet. It was nice to be home again.