Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Welcome to the Gocke Home

On a Friday afternoon fourteen years ago, when I was ten years old, my friend DeAna DiMeo and I arrived at my house after getting out of school early for a half day. At St. Brendan's elementary school and junior high, every first Friday of the month was a half day. Naturally, aside from weekends, these Fridays were the most treasured days of the school year. All any kid could ever think about on these days was getting home while the sun was high enough in the sky that they could relish in playing outside all afternoon, as if they had cheated the system or something.

That Friday, however, when I arrived home I saw my father's car in the driveway. Before my father retired he was lawyer and thus worked long hours; he was never home at this time of day, or generally any time before 7pm. But his car wasn't the only strange image that my brain was ambushed by that afternoon. As the carpool driver pulled up to my house, I simultaneously processed the fact that there was a 'for sale' sign on my front lawn.

No mention of this had been made to me, and my father surely knew such a blow would be devastating. I stared in disbelief as we exited the car. DeAna was pretty silent as we walked up my driveway and saw my father emerge from the front door. I think she may have asked, "did you know about this?" Who knows if I responded; my eyes were fixated on my father walking to meet us side by side with the ominous placard.

He explained that he knew this would be hard for me, but the time has come to sell my childhood home. It just didn't make sense to have such a big house for so few people. He could see the upset swallowing my face and escorted us inside, presumably to avoid public embarrassment among neighbors who he assumed were peering through their blinds, hoping to spot a juicy reaction of lament.

Fast forward fourteen years. I have a good job, but a job that doesn't cover my basic cost of living, nonetheless. (Public Relations is the type of job that you have to pay your dues in before you can expect to rake in any real bucks) I found myself in a bind over the weekend, a bind that I hadn't experienced in over two years, since being a poor college student. After some long thought and serious compromising of my pride, I called my father yesterday. I explained to him that I can't make rent this month and will have zero cash to live on for the next two weeks, until I get my next pay check. (This is after applying for a credit card and frantically following the phrase "make money quickly" all over the Internet, wherever it would lead me, mind you)

I took some guff about parking tickets and the irresponsibility of getting my car towed, and then endured some disappointed sentiments about how I should be pursuing another career more actively. After his peace had been spoken, my father agreed to directly deposit a chunk of money that should cover the rent I was short of and ideally carry me through the next two weeks. As was common in my childhood for all agreements between me and my father, a contract requiring my signature will likely follow in the near future.

So my financial worries were put at bay for the rest of the evening... until this morning. Just as moment ago, as I was walking into work, my cell phone rang. It was my father. He cut to the chase and explained that he went to the bank this morning to transfer the money but as it turns out, he doesn't have the money available to lend. This didn't completely surprise me since I know that he's put his life's savings into the beach house that he is currently remodeling. "I'm sorry, but I can't help you out. You're just going to have to figure this one out on your own." A twinge of resentment shot through my brain as it occurred to me that he may be trying to teach me a lesson via some good old fashioned tough love.

I sighed an anxiety ridden breath and told him, "thank you anyway." But much like the time fourteen years ago, when I first lost my sense of security and home, a moment of clarity shone through my foggy head, as my father gleefully shouted, "April Fools!!"

Yes folks, welcome to the Springtime of my childhood. Over the years my father has gone to great lengths to instill fear and uncertainty in his children on this single day of the year. There's no doubt in my mind that this is merely a way to relive the days of his youth when he was a hooligan, playing mischievous pranks on people - god help us if I'm wrong and he actually just takes sick pleasure in our defeat. (The fact that my father had told me yesterday to be sure to answer my phone if he calls today makes me wonder how premeditated this prank actually was; had he been formulating his plan the whole time I was spilling my woes to him?)

Other April Fools Day jokes he's used were good, but never measured up to the 'for sale' sign. A couple years ago, when he had a girlfriend, they 'went to Vegas to elope.' Other times there were serious medical injuries. But most often these pranks of his failed since, ultimately, my father created a monster. One of us would answer the other's call only to realize that we were battling to get our respective pranks out first. As was the case with the 'elope' prank, we both scurried to set up our back stories. He obviously didn't buy it when I told him that I arrived home to find he'd been robbed and his coveted big screen TV was gone.

And what's worse is that I've let this filter over into other relationships in my life. I've told new boyfriends that I'm actually in a serious relationship, which I'd been hiding. I've told friends I was in the emergency room, and roommates that their cats were missing. Who the hell am I? Whoever I am, my father has made me not right in the head come this particular day of the year.


Anonymous said...

Im peeing my pants- i remembered the story at the first line and was waiting in excitement as i read for what was in store for you today! he really takes this day seriously and i respect him for that.

- Luie

Stepiphany said...

"he really takes this day seriously and i respect him for that."

Hahaha - I respect you for being one of the few who understands such dark humor.

mike said...

hahah this is genius, my girlfriends have never enjoyed having me around on 4-1.

on a sidenote: i updated my blog with a new system so you can add comments! yay!