If cursing were an Olympic sport, my dad would be a gold medalist.
As my buddy Pedro has observed about “Mr. M” (as my friends call my dad): “He’s a first-class sweargarian.”
I attribute some of dad’s expansive profanity to having grown up in an ethnically mixed neighborhood and to having spent time in the Navy, where sailors cursed like, well, sailors.
Dad had slang expressions bordering on the profane that he would use as terms of affection toward me.
Do you see a pattern emerging here?
Of course, there are other time-honored expressions like “No shit, Dick Tracy” (a cultural reference that would be lost on some generations) and its cousin, “No shit, Sherlock.”
Nowhere, though, was my dad’s vulgarity vocabulary on more display than when it came to so-called “home projects.” And it was during these episodes that his short fuse would be lit, much to my fright.
My parents were DIY types long before Home Depot made do-it-yourself a trend. Painting. Wallpapering. Carpeting. Paneling. Spackling. You name it, they did it.
When things would go awry is when my dad’s swearing would begin in earnest. (Think of the scene from “A Christmas Story” where the dad is dealing with the malfunctioning furnace.)
A moment seared in my memory was when dad was on a ladder painting the living room ceiling. Things were fine until suddenly the old paint inexplicably began coming off in flakes.
As a kid, it was a moment that teetered on the comical. I wisely suppressed any laughter, though, knowing that at any second, his volcanic temper could erupt as it often did when things went sideways.
It started out with a mildly profane, “A-ba-fungu!” and a thrown paint brush. But then there came a purple streak of swearing that to this day echoes in my ears.
The cursing betrayed a white-hot anger that verged on out of control.
He was not mad with me, per se, but I was the sorcerer’s apprentice and the sorcerer was wielding a mighty damn angry wand at that moment.
Emotionally, I would be collateral damage as he lashed out in frustration.
Dad would eventually cool down, apologize for losing his temper and we’d get back to work.
The long-term effects of these episodes have been twofold:
One, at a young age, I vowed to keep my temper in check and not to lash out irrationally like that.
And two, those episodes made me severely allergic to home repairs.
So now when something needs fixing in the house, my response is not to lose my cool and to instead call a professional.
Because, when it comes to home projects, I don’t know whether to shit or wind my watch.