August 16, 2009
Cousin Bill was naked on the floor of the church bathroom, clutching his chest in pain. He’d felt a heart attack coming on but didn’t want to go the hospital with a full bowel, so he stopped for a cup of coffee to move things along and then at the church to drop off a litter of kittens. Of course, when Bill told others the story he tried to make it sound like he was being all holy, but in reality he only stopped there because that was the closest place with a toilet.
“Wait, why were you naked?” I asked.
“It’s something I’ve done since I was kid. I take off all my clothes when I’m on the toilet. It’s not some kind of sexual perversion, that’s just how I go to the bathroom,” Bill chuckled.
I laughed and shook my head as he continued his tale. He didn’t want anyone to find him without his clothes, so he managed to pull on his pants and shirt. Then he slithered out into the vestibule, rolled onto his back, and lay there calling for help. Finally someone heard him and they stopped the Mass and called him an ambulance. And that was how Bill rang in the New Year.
Bill actually was religious, though. My mother said he was very Christ-like. He treated everybody the same and was always going out of his way to help people. If you wanted Bill to meet you somewhere you always had to figure on him being at least 45 minutes late. If he wasn’t stopping to give food to a homeless person then he was helping stranded motorists. Two of Bill’s car were totaled that way, one of them rear-ended and the other pushed into the woods after he’d parked in the shoulder.
His good fortune didn’t stop there. After he finally moved out he started rooming with this guy Danny, a schizophrenic who sold watches at the Lynbrook train station. He sleepwalked, urinated in the kitchen garbage can, and accused Bill of molesting his cat. I caught a glimpse of Danny when I rolled up at their apartment one day. Bill was standing in the doorway making faces and anxiously waving at me to keep driving. He was trying to sneak out because Danny was having a breakdown, so he met me around the corner of the building. I nearly ran over a scary-looking dude in a wife-beater when I turned around. That was Danny.
He wasn’t the only one jumping from the frying pan into the flames. Kathleen finally left Rick the Dick and moved back home with Dad for the umpteenth time. She brought her rabbits too, but Benny the Bunny apparently didn’t take kindly to being back there. She was washing him in the kitchen sink one day when he suddenly took a shit in her arms and died. Then her other rabbit died while she was in Florida for a week. Dad didn’t want her to see it, but instead of burying it he just put it out with the garbage. And that wasn’t even the worst part – he put the rabbit out on recycling day, not garbage day. So the men picked up the box thinking it was full of papers. I can only imagine their faces when they fed that into the shredder back at the plant.
Meanwhile Dad was trying to find a home for Leo the Cat. He got Leo to keep Grandma company in her last year of life. Leo was supposedly a lap cat, but Grandma was terrified of the damn thing, jumping every time it moved or came near her. Dad kept Leo after she died, but when he couldn’t find another home he gave up and said he was taking him to be gassed. Way to respect life. I went into overdrive, contacting every cat lover and owner I knew, but there were no takers. In the end an adoptive couple came forward and saved Leo from Cat Auschwitz.
Kathleen hadn’t forgotten her rabbit’s burial at garbage truck, so she had a party while Dad was away. She threw out all manner of items, including all of Grandma’s clothes and most of her furniture. Then she went into the kitchen and chucked all the extra pots and pans and miscellaneous items in the drawers. Next she threw out his mail – mostly junk, but a lot of his newspapers and magazines too. She even tossed the doormat. Karma is a bitch, and it’s name is Kathleen.
Dad would have flipped out on her, except that he was missing in action. Weeks went by before I finally heard from him. He rang my cell from jail. Huh? Yes, jail. He was protesting one of Obama’s appearances and was arrested for trespassing. More precisely, Dad was pushing around a baby stroller with a blood-covered Spongebob Squarepants buckled inside to protest Obama’s stance on abortion. Because when I think Spongebob Squarepants… oh yeah, I think pro-life. Especially when he’s soaked in plasma.
Long story short, Dad remained in jail as part of his continuing protest of abortion. He also wanted to stay there as a way of honoring his father, the hero. Grandpa did many stints in jail back in the 80s, getting himself arrested alongside the infamous James Kopp and others. This was Dad’s way of paying tribute to the sacrifices his late father made during the days of Operation Rescue.
I ran into a family friend a few days afterwards, along with her 5-year-old daughter Judy. We discussed Dad being in jail, except that she would spell out “J-A-I-L” so that Judy wouldn’t know what we were discussing. Seriously? I remember being at their house one day and this poor girl had to sit on a stool facing the wall for an hour for saying the word “damn,” so I already knew her mother was out to religious lunch. But we couldn’t say the word “jail” around her child? And Judy was running around as we were outside, giggling and shrieking as kids do until her mother chastised her: “All that laughter, Judy, it’s going to end in tears.”
Dad came home a few weeks later, but he had to go back for his court date. He said he wasn’t going to go, despite the fact that failure to appear carried with it an arrest warrant and a minimum three-year jail term in that state. In the end he relented and went. Now I waited on tenterhooks to see whether he returned.