I hail from a family of sometimes intentional, mostly unintentional comedians. Chief amongst these funny, funny people was my dad. A wry sense of humour, a gift for the gab, and a rare ability to be incredibly expressive and deadpan, depending on the moment. It was never boring growing up with my folks.
After the growing up was mostly accomplished though, my mother rather sneakily dumped the reins of looking after my father’s health squarely in my hands. I found myself going with him for doctors’ appointments, buying his meds, measuring out doses, and, for a brief and terrifying period, giving him injections.
It is impossible to be in this position of responsibility and not occasionally yell at your charge for doing something that’s harmful to their health. For instance, my father had atrocious dental hygiene, compounded by years of smoking and a dislike of the taste of toothpaste [yes really]. So there was a tussle every night with him, because I insisted he either brush his teeth or gargle with a mouthwash. Just an illustrative example, mind you; there were many tussles like this spread over the course of the day.
My father never really behaved in a paternal way, choosing instead to form his unique blend of brother, pal, and brat. My mother merely smiled seraphically every time he complained to her that I was telling him off. Her whole mien was of someone who had managed to find the best solution to a recurring problem, and was immensely smug about it. My father didn’t much appreciate this attitude; and for the record, neither did I. But that was the status quo.
So, in retaliation for making him to do things that were good for him, he used to call me names. There were a few: jackass, donkey, mother-in-law, grandmother, etc. My mother did object to this name-calling, although it made not a dent in my psyche. He still had to do what I said, and he could call me what he liked.
But by far my favourite moment of this incessant name-calling was when he went whining up to my mother about something I had done. Can’t remember what it was anymore; must have been something heinous like making him drink water instead of Pepsi.
Dad: “She’s ordering me around again!”
Mom *not looking up from what she was doing*: “I agree with her.”
Dad: “I’m her father. Her FATHER. She should be afraid of me!”
Mom: “Right. Of course. That’s exactly how your relationship works.”
Dad: “Children in India get up in the morning, and touch their father’s feet for blessings! This one yells at me for not going for a walk.”
Mom *finally looking up*: “Well, if you behaved like a father, maybe she would treat you like one. You behave like an irritating brother, and not even an older one, but a younger one!”
That shut him right up, and I nearly choked with laughter.