August 7, 1997
I was heading towards Dad’s office when I noticed he had company. The door was closed but I looked through the window and saw Shannon in there with him. It looked they were having a serious discussion, and Dad didn’t look too pleased about whatever they were talking about. I left them to it and went back upstairs. I figured they were finally sitting down and patching things up. It was about time. They hadn’t gotten on for years.
Later that day I was watching Jaws for the millionth time when Shannon came in and sat down on the couch next to me. For a brief second I thought she wanted to watch it too, but instead she said had some exciting news for me.
“How you would feel about there being a baby around the house?”
I shot her a quizzical look. A baby? Was Mom pregnant? That couldn’t be – she was 53 years old and she and Dad didn’t get along. They didn’t even sleep in the same room anymore. And while I had used to beg my mother for a younger brother to play with, I was 12 and no longer interested in that. So what the heck was she talking about? Shannon was 21, though… could she actually mean herself?
“A baby?” I repeated. “From where?”
“Right here,” Shannon said, patting her stomach.
“Oh. Okay…” I said slowly. “When is this happening?”
“In two months,” she said.
I just gaped at her. Dafuq? Now I was really confused. How could she possibly be giving birth in two months? She didn’t even look pregnant. I thought she was either joking around with me or gauging my reaction in the eventuality that she did get pregnant.
“So what do you think?”
“Um, that’s nice, I guess…” I said uncertainly.
“Right, um, well, I just thought you should know,” Shannon said awkwardly, rubbing her hands on her thighs. Then she smiled and stood up and left the room. I tried to watch the rest of the movie but my mind was a complete haze, so I shut it off and went to find Mom. I told her what Shannon had just told me and she confirmed it was true.
I was completely baffled and blindsided. How could Shannon be seven months pregnant? How could she be pregnant at all? Out of all my sisters, she was the absolute last one I’d expect to have a baby out of wedlock. If anything my money was on my oldest sister Kathleen, who was 29 and serial dating a revolving door of assholes. I hadn’t even known that Shannon had a boyfriend, which was another revelation to me.
Kathleen in fact already had one abortion under her belt by that time. I didn’t know that, but Dad did because Kathleen was stupid enough to tell him. You can imagine how Dad, the pro-life warrior, took that news. It was a real slap in the face, and a blow to the morality he was trying to impose on the family. However, having a baby when you were unmarried apparently wasn’t acceptable either.
Every time something bothered Dad, he’d immerse himself in his tools and some project around the house. So while I was inside talking to Mom, Dad was outside organizing his truck with a vengeance. It was a pointless exercise – no matter how many times he cleaned his truck it still looked like a bomb went off inside of it, and the rest of the house looked like the set of Sanford and Son.
One of our neighbors a couple of doors down came outside and waved hello to Dad. “Hey, John, how’s it going?” he called out.
“Oh, everything’s great,” Dad answered, slinging a couple of empty spackle buckets into the depths of his truck. “MY DAUGHTER JUST GOT KNOCKED UP. I GUESS BECAUSE SHE’S A SLUT,” he shouted loud enough for the whole block to hear. Nothing like kicking a person when she’s down, especially after she chose to confide in you.
Fortunately Shannon had gone out so she wasn’t around to hear that, but my sister Mary got an earful from her second-floor bedroom. She went outside immediately and told our neighbor to excuse her but she needed to have a word with her father. She was only a year younger than Shannon and his remark hit her in an awful way. Mary started to give Dad a piece of her mind, but he turned it around on her and started lecturing her about how hard he worked to put a roof over our heads and to instill us with the correct values, so how was he supposed to feel when Shannon turned around and did something like that to him? “And what other word would you choose to describe someone like that?” he asked Mary.
I hadn’t heard any of the things Dad was yelling out in the street as I was deep inside the house talking to Mom. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the last time he’d make a scene…