The movie was Christmas Vacation and the words came across loud and clear from the picture box in front of us. Dad frowned. I laughed out loud. He looked at me like I'd tossed a tur... Well, let's just say he wasn't pleased nor did he see the humour.
"It's funny because it's absurd," I told him.
His reserve kept him from anwering. I know he had a sense of humour though. He told me about the time his mother was so angry with him that she told him to put on his hat and coat because she was taking him to the local orphanage. Though long gone it was on a Dover street and called the Gordon Boy's Home.
She took him by the hand and began her regal march down the street. He just smiled and allowed himself to be led. He must have been around ten or eleven. Some of his friends saw him being pulled along the sidewalk at a stiff pace.
"Hey! Alfy! Where ya goin"?"
"I can't talk now, fellas. Mum's taking me to the Gordon Boy's Home."
My grandmother stopped short. She turned and marched him right back to the house. His smile was wide and deep until he got behind the closed door. She was not a person to be humiliated. He stood for meals for several days after that.
He had a rough childhood durng the 20's. My granddad wanted him to be tough. My grandmother wanted him to turn the other cheek. It was a hard row to hoe.
He was caught at the front of the house by one of the local bullies.
"Hey Croucher! I don't like your face, runt!" The blackguard yelled at him. Dad was a small child for his age.
"You don't have to," he said squaring off. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his mother at the window watching. Once he saw her he dropped his hands and the guy caught him on the jaw and he went down. Dad stayed down letting the bully walk away laughing loudly.
The problem was granddad had seen the encounter as well. When my dad walked into the house he was met by a fist sending him over the couch into the firplace.
"What was that for?" dad asked granddad.
"For being a coward," he said. "How many times have I told you to stand up for yourself. You're a little guy. You'll always have kids beating on you if you don't let 'em know who's boss."
"I don't want excuses. I want you standing up for yourself."
Dad got up rubbing his jaw and walked into the kitchen. Grandmother, unaware of the previous scene, ruffled his hair saying, "I'm proud of you, son. It was the Christian thing to do. Here's a sweet."
He took that bit of candy and walked out back. When he was out of her sight he took off down the street. He ran until he caught up with the boy who had decked him.
"Hey! You!" he yelled at the big guy.
"Oh, look," he said to his pals. "It's the little Christian boy who listens to his mummy. What do want, you little pantywaist?"
"I just want you to put 'em up. Me mum ain't watching now."
Dad lit into him like a mongoose on a cobra. The boy was down in two blows. He began to cry out as dad sat on him pummeling away.
"NO! Get 'im off me! Help!"
A copper pulled him off. He knew the boy on the ground so he told dad to be on his way with a smile.
Toward the end of his life he told me about the time he was fedup with granddad's getting on to him to stand up for himself. He often helped with the boot repairs in the shop at the back of the house. He said one day granddad yelled one time too many. When he left to go up to the house, dad opened a box of matches, took one out, struck it on the box and tossed it into the polish rags. The flames bit hard and roared into a huge fire. Dad ran from the workshop as it burst into flame and burned to the ground. No one ever suspected him, he told me, and he never offered the information. It was a revelation in my older age. I looked at him in a totally different way. He became a person instead of DAD. I am thankful for his telling me that.