Skip to content

I like that Jenny McCarthy.

February 20, 2013

Yesterday a wave of ennui washed over me, so I skulked through the tagged photos of a childhood dance classmate I’m not even friends with on Facebook. With every click of the Next arrow, a new image portrayed the perfection of H’s life – a flawlessness her Facebook profile leads common observers to believe at least. A few years ago I would have envied H’s old money, slim figure post childbirth, or the success of her business. But what struck a green nerve yesterday was a photo of her dancing with her father at a small town version of Dancing with the Stars – a fundraiser for the local historic theater. Fingers interlaced for balance, they can-canned hand in hand. I never have danced with my father or embraced him for long. The last time I left my parents’ house bawling, refusing to release Daddy from the grip of my hug, he uncomfortably pushed me away. “All right!” he hollered. Even if Alzheimer’s hadn’t stricken Daddy, we wouldn’t have can-canned at a local production, or even slow danced at my wedding. But I still felt jealous of H’s father’s health as well as the future that lies ahead for their bond.

I never would have described Daddy’s and my relationship as lighthearted. I always revered him with fear and respect. However, now that Alzheimer’s has tangled his brain, the layer of discipline that once seemed hard as stone has worn away. Perhaps harsh discipline wasn’t as essential to his nature as I thought, particularly since his Airborne Ranger rigidity was one of his first personality traits to dissipate.

When Timber and I were children, our parents forbade us from watching certain programming intended for youth, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Fern Gully. However, they deemed MacGyver, Murphy Brown, and Evening Shade as appropriate. When I mentioned my parents’ arbitrary decisions regarding our access to media to my best friend Leslie, she brilliantly responded, “Bobbin, it sounds like they made up those rules so they could watch what they wanted on TV.”

“Whoa,” I squinted. “That’s ingenious.”

Once I applied Leslie’s revelation to my childhood TV consumption, my parents’ boob tube bylaws made a lot more sense. However, once Timber and I reached middle school, our gravitation toward MTV made it more difficult for them to enforce said rules. Mother found Singled Out disgusting and asked us to turn it off when host Jenny McCarthy questioned the contestants regarding their favorite sex positions.

“You heard yer mother,” Daddy flimsily demanded. “Turn that trash AWF!”

He grabbed the remote and changed the channel to Fox News, forcing us to sulk to our bedrooms. Five minutes later, though, we heard the Singled Out Picker distribute a Golden Ticket, so we tiptoed back into the living room.

“Daddy!” we crossed our arms.

“I like that Jenny McCarthy,” he grunted.

Before Mother realized MTV aired Beavis and Butthead, she went through a phase of mimicking Butthead’s guttural cackle. (Neal Boortz probably played a clip of it on the radio, prompting Mother to approve whatever he approved.)

“Her. Her. Her-her-HER,” she attempted.

“What was that?” Timber asked agape.


“What? Butthead?! Mother, you KNOW Beavis and Butthead is on MTV.”

“What?! GROSS. You girls aren’t allowed to watch that awful show.”

Any material portraying attractive or scantily dressed women, really, compromised Daddy’s enforcement of the rules. When I was super young, the family gathered around the television to watch Urban Cowboy. One scene featured a raunchy mechanical bull ride and bare breasts — leaving Daddy tongue-tied and at odds with his role as a father and the forces of nature.

“Ugh!” he hacked while the aforementioned hussy suggestively grasped the saddle. “This is inappropriate for little girls.”

Daddy switched the channel to Fox News for about 30 seconds before giving in, allowing us to finish the movie huddled on the couch, subsequent bawdy bull rides, boobs, and all.

My father used to be a lot of things to me: a mentor, a guardian, and — clearly — a disciplinarian. Without effort or sympathy, Alzheimer’s cruelly blew those layers away as if they were salt or dust or snow. As layer after layer disappears, I get closer to Daddy’s core: his desire to eat, sleep, laugh, and be loved. It’s like we’re teenage friends jumping on a bed and making fun of our mother, with nothing to worry about except what’s for dinner and what we should watch on TV. He doesn’t enforce any rules, though. We watch whatever we want.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Timber permalink
    March 5, 2013 7:02 pm

    I like the first three sentences of the last paragraph. It’s true, I guess. Daddy’s personality is eroding, but there are still glimpses of it from time to time. Did I tell you about the canned meat episode? While Mother and Daddy were at the store, Daddy surreptitiously placed can of Vienna sausages in the grocery cart. When I saw the can sitting on the counter, I said, “Ew! Are those Vienna sausages?” Daddy immediately responded, “The dogs like ’em!” (We all knew HE was the one who wanted them.) “That’s disgusting!” I countered, and Daddy, with his characteristic quick wit, explained, “Well, I can’t help what they like!” 🙂

  2. March 6, 2013 7:01 am

    Maybe for Father’s Day we should have a canned meat party.

Leave a Reply to Timber Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: