Most evenings I would return home from work at 10:30 exhausted by my day. Juggling school, homework, and a part-time job was taxing, particularly as I worked from six to ten, four evenings a week, as well as eight hours on Saturdays. Typically, I would stop to visit with my parents before heading off to bed. It was always at these times that my father would engage me.
It started with an empty drink glass he would balance on his knee. This was to be my cue. I would ignore him.
“Ahem!” He would nod at the empty glass.
Continuing to ignore him, I would talk to my mother about the day.
Clink, clink, clink. My father would tap the glass to get my attention.
“Your legs worked fine the last time I saw them.”
He’d raise his eyebrows in displeasure. “I worked hard all day. It’s the least you could do.”
“I worked hard all day, too.” I’d object. “Get your own drink.”
My mother, the peacemaker, would take a step towards him.
“Don’t you dare, Mom! You worked equally as hard all day. He can get his own.”
“Is this the thanks I get? All I want is a simple drink, and my own daughter won’t even get up and get it for me.”
It was the point of the thing. My father was the epitome of male chauvinist pig. It was his home, his castle, and everyone and everything was expected to pander to him. It made me mad.
My mother stood by, hesitant.
‘It won’t hurt him to serve himself once in awhile.” Now I was arguing with her.
“Your not going to win,” she’d sigh. My father leered with satisfaction.
“Not if you give in.” It was a hopeless plea. My mother always gave in. Didn’t she realize I was on her side? I was doing this for all of us?
This wasn’t about the drink. It was about all the times he made her have dinner on the table the moment he walked through the door, then pushed his plate away after two bites, exclaiming disgust at her cooking; humiliating her in front of all of us. And how he always had to have the first helping of pie, and it had to be flawlessly served; no broken pieces for him. It was about how he insisted on napping in a chair beside the dinner table, forbidding us to talk even though we were busting to discuss our day. And how every time we were watching the movie of the week, he would come in just at the climax and insist on changing the channel, even though he had a TV set in his room, which only he was allowed to watch. He was the King of the Castle, he’d remind us. As if we needed reminding.
For once, I wanted to win. To prove him wrong. To see him back down. It wasn’t going to happen.
I got up and grabbed the glass. There was no winning against my father. He knew it. She knew it. I seethed inside.