Dad - Part 2
My dad fell quite ill when I was in my late teens. He developed emphysema and one of his lungs collapsed making it very difficult for him to breathe. It was over 30 years later that I found out he had never been diagnosed with emphysema... so I don't really know what it was he had! Anyway, he couldn’t work and money became very tight. Even though my mom was working, it wasn’t enough and they had to draw quite heavily on their savings. Eventually though and with the help of medication, dad improved a bit and, still unable to attend to a full-time job, decided to go into business for himself selling women’s shoes... and Scotty’s Shoes was born.
He purchased shoes on consignment from an acquaintance he knew, and organized shoe parties as someone would organize a Tupperware party. It wasn’t a big money maker at first, but dad stayed with it and eventually was able to buy a station wagon to help cart the shoes. Since my brother was busy studying at college, I helped dad with his shoe parties after school and on weekends. Being a teenager, this was exactly the sort of work I wanted to do - NOT! I didn’t like working with my dad although I understood it was necessary if we were going to eat, so mostly I kept quiet about it. I knew it wouldn’t last forever but at the time, it seemed like it would.
Well, one day I borrowed the wagon and went to school... well, not the high school where I was registered, but my former high school. What I didn’t know was that he needed the shoes which were in the wagon and while I was happily playing cards at Mackenzie, dad was frantically searching for me all over hell’s half acre and when he finally tracked me down, well, he wasn’t in too fine a mood. I guess I learned an important lesson that day - if I was going to do something bad, I’d best make sure I didn’t get caught. Mind you, I didn’t learn the lesson too well. Shoe parties weren’t the only source of income at that time. Dad also took his shoes to flea markets and similar sales opportunities as they arose. In the winter, he’d also have a selection of boots. Mom too, after a while, started up a little business known as Sheila’s Baking - consisting mostly of fine Scottish breads and pastries, which she bought from a friend who owned Baird’s Scottish Bakery. I ate well that year.
As I said, dad’s illness made it difficult for him to breathe - and he collected phlegm in his throat which he had to cough up and spit into a handkerchief else he’d choke on it. It wasn’t a pretty sight and I soon hated to hear the sound of him coughing and spitting up. His nerves were frazzled by his illness, and my nerves were frazzled by his insistence that if I didn’t help him with the shoes, our family would end up destitute. One evening, while driving him home from one of his shoe parties, he began to cough and I, in an effort to get him home quickly, thought I should go faster. He said to me, "Don’t speed up," and I replied, "I wasn’t speeding up." He said, "I didn’t say you were, I just said don’t do it." I insisted I wasn’t, he insisted that I shouldn’t, and on it went - each time getting louder and louder until we were both shouting.
When I finally parked the car and we got out, he was still going on about me not speeding and something must have snapped in me, because the next thing I knew, I had punched him across the jaw and he had fallen on his butt in the garage. I’m not sure who was more surprised. Oddly, we never spoke of that incident again - almost as though it had never happened. My brother likes to tell that tale from time to time, as though it was a badge of honor, but I felt no honor in the act, and I think that Michael secretly wished that he had hit our dad, but was glad it had been me.