See, I'm used to incarceration. For the last six months I've been living at home with my parents, in their little Alcatraz in the hills outside Los Angeles. I'm in my 20s. I have a good job and pretty amazing hair (everybody says so). I have my own car and credit cards and a college degree. Is this what America has become, a bad De Niro comedy?
That's my dad. He's going up on the roof to fix the skylight over the kitchen, which has been leaking like the Titanic from all the rain. Dad says he likes the rain, since it keeps his tongue hydrated. Except when water starts pouring directly into the kitchen.
"Pretty much, that's where I draw the line," he says with a wink.
Have you ever met a leprechaun? That's my dad. Up and down the ladder he goes. He found an old bucket of tar in the basement, and now he's up on the roof, trying not to fall through the skylight, which would be a real setback to this little repair project of his. He'd land right on the Viking stove and take out a couple of burners. Believe me, my mom would be sooooo. . . .
"I THINK I GOT IT!" he yells from the roof.
"GOOD JOB!" my mom yells back, after which my dad gives the thumbs-up sign, the way they used to a lot in the '70s.
So, it's been a good week, here in the House of Love. Dad fixed the skylight on the very first try (a personal record). My little brother made me a Valentine's card in Sunday school that has nothing but naked people on it.
Meanwhile, my little sister took bites out of half the pieces in my Valentine's candy, then put the pieces back into the box like nothing happened.
"Sweet!" my dad says, then eats about half the chocolate anyway.
Seriously, you should've seen Valentine's Day around here. First, my dad goes to the farmers market and buys flowers for all us girls. He comes home and hands them out slowly and calmly, flower by flower, like Jesus gifting the Apostles. Then he takes my baby bro out to rent a video.
"Today, we pull out all the stops," Dad tells him.
"Because love has no limits, that's why," my dad explains, after which my mom spews coffee all over the counter, she is so surprised. Up to now, Mom had been pretty sure love has some sort of limits.
"Come on, Cupid, let's go watch a movie," my dad tells my brother.
For two hours, the two of them sit on the couch and howl at " Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa," which my dad then proclaims "the best sequel since the second 'Godfather,' whatever that was called."
" 'Godfather II'?" my other brother says.
"Yeah, something like that."
My dad says he's raising my brothers to be just like him -- "humanists with Calvinist tendencies . . . rugged men of principle." For instance, my 6-year-old brother refused to eat Boston cream pie the other night on account of how much he dislikes the Boston Celtics.
"That makes me kinda proud," my dad said wistfully.
"Here, I'll eat your piece," offered my other brother.
"No, I got it," said my dad, who grabbed the pie right out of his hand.
To me, you haven't really celebrated Valentine's until you've spent it with a bunch of emotionally challenged crazy people. Now, a few days later, there are flowers and cards scattered almost everywhere. Our entire house looks like Bette Midler's dressing room.
"THEY'RE NAKED, SEE?!!" my brother screams when he shows me my Valentine's card, the one he made in Sunday school.
"Yeah, no kidding," I say. If this keeps up, we might be the first family ever excommunicated from the Presbyterian church.
Then my sister, who's a wise guy too, writes this thank-you poem to the poor little dude who treated her to dinner on Valentine's night.
Here's part of it:
"I hope it's not too mushy,
but I really liked that sushi . . . "
"That's tremendous," my dad tells her.
"It is?" asks my sister.
"Straight from the stomach," says my dad.
"Awwww," says my sister, and tiptoes over to give him a great big hug.
As usual, my mom and dad didn't do a whole lot for Valentine's themselves, "except continue one of the greatest love affairs of the late 20th century," my dad explains.
"What about this century?" I ask.
"This century, we're pretty much day-to-day," my dad says.
Now that's what I call commitment.