growing up, i liked to push people’s buttons. friends, family, teachers, coaches- it didn’t matter. for whatever reason, i liked to see what a person’s mental breaking point was and how i could help them reach it.
when i did it to my dad, he called it “getting his goat,” at which point i would tell him how stupid that phrase was, which would further annoy him, and around and around we’d go.
one sunday afternoon some years ago, i went golfing with my dad and brother.
my dad is a devout catholic so we went to church beforehand, and i couldn’t stop laughing at the old members of the choir.
during hymns, they elongated “jesus christ” to “gheeeee-zussssss cryyyyyyyyyyyy-stuh.” i’d been to mass hundreds of times before, so it’s not like i hadn’t heard that type of singing. there was just something in the air that day that made me want to act like a jackass.
after mass, i started yelling the overly long and tone deaf version of “jesus christ” every chance i got: when we got stuck in the church parking lot traffic; when we hit a bunch of red lights on the way to the golf course; when starbucks put sweetener in my iced coffee after i asked for it black; but especially once we got on the course and my dad started shanking the ball several times per hole.
there was hardly anyone else on the course that day, so my jc’s echoed throughout the trees and fairways. at this point in my life i had made it clear that i would do anything for a laugh, so even though taking the lord’s name in vein is a sin, my dad had resigned himself to the fact that i was going to bring the buffoonery whether he liked it or not.
after blasting a monster drive on a short par 4 near the end of the round (and after several dozen jc’s screamed at the top of my lungs), i launched my sand wedge approach over the green and into someone’s backyard.
lifting my club in the air like a young judge smails, i muttered a very low but drawn out “jesus,” and as i let go of the club on it’s ascent into the nearby like, let out the loudest, longest “christ” of the day.
my dad seethed while brother stood motionless. the air was so still that we heard the club’s “plop” into the lake, which i had to laugh at.
the reddening of my dad’s face was the signal that maybe i should calm it down a bit and finish out the round without any additional jc’s before he had a heart attack. i obliged.
on the way home, we stopped at five guys for a burger, which we brought home so we could watch the sunday night red sox game. after inhaling my food like a sickly dickensian poor boy, i proclaimed that i was off to the rest room to “take a huge shit.”
this phrase did not endear me to my dad’s recently cooled off demeanor.
“ok fine! just do what you need to do and stop announcing it!” he bellowed.
after making excessively loud moaning sounds for about 20 minutes to let them know exactly how i was doing, i walked back into the kitchen shirtless, with only my boxers on.
after waiting a moment to make sure i had both my dad and brother’s attention, i clapped my hands together like a toddler discovering the joys of laughter for the first time and screamed “huhhh-huh-ha-hahaha-hahahaha i wiped my bummmm!”
the “ha ha ha” sounded like the beginning of wipeout. which only made things worse.
my dad dropped his food, rubbed his temples for just a second and then yelled “hey! Hey! HEY! thaaaaaaat… IS ENOUUUUUGHHHHHHHHH!”
he then took the dog and stormed outside, where i assume they went for an extensive walk, because they still hadn’t returned when my brother and i went to bed a couple hours later.
the sox won, too.