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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Had a Dad, Part III

One thing that was remarkable about my dad was that he almost always took my side. If I got in trouble with a teacher, he would listen to my side of the story. And he believed me. I remember hearing him say to teachers or other grown-ups, “E. told me X, Y, or Z, and she doesn’t lie to me.” He said this even though I sometimes did lie to him, which he must have known. But when it came to my word against some adults, he always erred in favor of believing me. I don’t ever remember feeling alone, with my dad on the other side, in league with the other grown-ups. There would be times he would say to some other grown-up, “Well you can be sure that I’ll deal with this when we get home,” which to the other grown-up meant “She’ll be punished,” but which I knew really meant “We’ll talk it over, and my dad will listen to me, and he’ll take my side of the story seriously.”

I don’t know if I realized then that my dad was crazy. A little crazy. I don’t think I realized that. When you’re a little kid, your parents are the status quo, the definition of “normal grown-up.” There were signs then, though. Even then he would go through these phases, hard-core phases. The four-hours-of-chess-every-night phase, the flax seed phase, the “electric zapper” phase, the stand-on-his-head phase, the root beer float phase. Then there’d be a no-sugar phase, and we would have no candy, no ice cream, no sweets of any kind in the house. And he’d talk to anyone who’d listen about sugar and why it’s terrible and try to get them to read Sugar Blues and insist to them that the whole profession of orthodontia would collapse if only people kept kids under five from eating sugar. But after the no-sugar-at-all phase, there was the Friday night candy binge phase.

When I was about seven, my dad had a girlfriend named Susan, and her five-year-old daughter Aubyn and I quickly became good friends, almost like sisters. Susan had also read Sugar Blues and was a big proponent of sugar-free kids. But somehow she and my dad decided that no sugar ever went too far, was contrary to the spirit of normal childhood or something. And they decided that a lot of sugar every once in awhile was better than a little sugar every day. So my dad and Susan bought a big old bag of candy, a Halloween- or Easter-worthy bag of candy. And, though we were barred from eating any sugar at all other times, every Friday evening Aubyn and I were allowed to eat as much candy as we wanted. It was amazing – a dream come true. And, in a way, this is an indication of what a great dad my dad was, that he allowed me to have that dream-scenario experience of all the candy I cared to eat. But, at the same time, hauling down a big brown paper bag full of candy for your otherwise sugar-free kid to gorge on for thirty minutes of pure confectionary excess. It was also kind of crazy.


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