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Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Close Shave

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

Dad was a control freak. He ran his household with an iron fist. The rest of the family, including my mother, had to follow his orders to the letter.

For example, during World War II, while serving at Fort Benning, Georgia, he ordered Mom to buy one loaf of bread. Since there was a sale, she came back with two. To show who was boss, he made her return the extra loaf.

Our father would make up the silliest rules so that he would be in total control. My two sisters began going to church services with our neighbors but that soon ended when Dad explained that the girls were needed at home to help Mom peel potatoes. Evidently, we had some kind of potato contract with at least half of the known world.

Each year, we would scrape and paint the house. As the youngest child, I was not trusted to paint until I had reached the advanced age of seven. However, until I was old enough, he made me stand in the boiling sun watching him and my older brother work. Dad explained that I “shouldn’t get out of something” merely because I was a little kid.

Dad refused to allow either Mom or my sisters to shave their armpits or their legs. I could have sold them to the local zoo; it had no gorillas at that time. Mom was allowed to buy razor blades only for her husband.

For some strange reason, my sisters didn’t want to be seen in public with furry legs so they hatched a plan. Every morning after Dad had shaved, they sneaked into the bathroom, locked the door, shaved their legs and armpits with the old man’s razor and then proceeded to carefully clean the blade before putting it back into the medicine cabinet.

Unfortunately, since she hadn’t had much practice in the art of shaving, my younger sister cut her right leg. To stifle the bleeding she put a piece of tissue paper on the wound. Unbeknownst to her, the piece of bloody tissue fell to the floor in front of Dad’s favorite chair. This happened on a Sunday morning, so Dad was sitting there, reading his newspaper, smoking a cigarette, and drinking coffee from a huge mug.

Mom, spying the red piece of tissue, picked it up and loudly proclaimed, “Look at this! Where did this bloody piece of toilet paper come from?”

My sisters could have sunk through the floor. Disobeying Dad almost always meant a whipping with either his leather belt or his razor strop. Luckily, Mom’s statement never registered with the master of the house; evidently he had his nose buried deeply into his beloved paper.

However, Mom soon caught the king’s wrath. “Are you buying me cheap razor blades?” he grilled her.

After being assured that they were his usual kind, he ordered her to try another brand: “They must be making these blades out of cheaper metal; lately they’ve been dull and they’re yanking on my beard instead of cutting it.”

For once, this little kid wisely kept his big mouth tightly shut.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I've heard this story from you many times, but it never grows old.

Nowadays your mom would ask herself the Ann Landers' question, "If you won the lottery tomorrow, would you stay or would you go?"

I dearly love my father, but I have to admit that Mom would have been better off going her own way.

Mickey - This was very funny.

However, I wish you had slipped in a couple of your Dad's redeeming features, because at this moment, I am having trouble warming up to him. - Sandy

Never underestimate the intelligence of a mouse.

I lived at Ft. Benning for a year or so during the Korean War. Although I was lucky to have a daddy who was anything but a tyrant, your story still brought back memories. I'm glad you can see the dimensions of your father so that you can write about him with equanimity.

Doesn't sound to me as if this tyrant had any redeeming qualities. Mom should have kept the bread. The women had a right to shave.

Your mom deserves an award for putting up with your dad for so long. Didn't she once rebel? He must have had some redeeming features or you would all have walked out at some point.

Dad did have redeeming features, but he was impossible to live with. Mom submitted to his every order until I, the youngest child, left home; then she started to verbally "let him have it" whenever he ticked her off, which was quite often. A victory for me is to be able to find a little bit of humor in such a tragic situation. Mom stayed with Dad for the duration-54 years. I really don't know how she did it.

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