Without supervision for all these years, my parents have become odd.

Since Dad retired about a decade ago, he has developed a sort of hobby, or at least keen interest in, well, celebrity gossip. Dad. Dad, the electronics engineer of 36 years. Dad, the guy who built our house with his own hands. Dad, the man who won’t wear shorts because showing his legs is too undignified. Dad, this Dad, knows the names, movie roles, and romantic dalliances of teen idols before most fifth-grade girls.

The first time I became aware of this (and by aware, I mean horrified) was a few years ago, when he tried to start a sort of bonding conversation with me about Jennifer Aniston’s love life.

“I think she and Vince Vaughn make a cuter couple than her and Brad Pitt anyway. I think he’s a better match for her,” he ventured. “Don’t you?”

I really have no considered opinion on this. I also had no idea Dad even knew who Jennifer Aniston was.

At first Dad subscribed to People but it got too expensive, so he pilfered old ones from my sister-in-law before she started divorce proceedings. (Perhaps they can work something out in the dissolution agreement.) Now he subscribes to his weekly US Magazine. Moreover, every night at dinner, we watch Inside Edition, their gushy features and stalky star-chasing filling the conversational spaces the way the pile of cottage cheese fills out my dinner.

In fact, just last week, we watched Brad preparing to officially co-adopt Angelina’s hundredth adopted child. They were out taking a family walk, and I think Angelina had a couple dozen African orphans in her arms while the rest of the kids held hands in a long row trailing back down the sidewalk. She looked as radiant as a new mother. Actually, I couldn’t really see because my chair sits to the side of the kitchen TV; and, I don’t want to.

“Do you think they’ll stay together?” I say idly as I push around some mashed potatoes on my plate.

“Oh, yeah!” says Dad expansively. This is clearly something he’s given a lot of thought to. “They have all those kids. And I think their relationship is solid.”

Their relationship. My Dad just said, relationship. About Brangelina.

While he’s glued to four hours of Oscars like he’s studying for his last chance to pass the state bar exam, Mom has something else going entirely.

I’m making breakfast one morning and trying to talk to her, but she keeps disappearing first out the front door, then the back door, for just a few seconds at a time. She is highly alert and distracted. She comes back in the back door and walks by me through the kitchen. She is holding a rifle.

“What are you doing?” I finally ask.

“Shooting squirrels off the bird feeder,” she answers, in the same matter-of-fact tone she might use to say, “Doing the dishes,” or “Vacuuming the carpet.”

“I don’t think it’s working,” she adds in frustration, shaking the gun by its barrel. “The BBs aren’t coming out every time.”

She catches my face.

”It doesn’t hurt them. Just stings their fur a little.”

“Damn it!” she suddenly exclaims as she catches sight of her nemesis out the kitchen window. She pumps the gun several times to cock it. The front door opens and she is out on the front porch in full view of street traffic with the gun on her shoulder, sighting it. I can’t watch the rest.

When she isn’t using it, the gun stands propped against our American flag in the corner by the front door, a bold statement about Mom’s right to bear arms. It must comfort her to know that the Second Amendment protects her freedom to be part of a standing militia for keeping obnoxious rodents away from food meant for birds.

Dad walks into the kitchen and looks out the window. He seems unfazed by Mom’s activities on the front porch. “Rats,” he says. “That’s what I call them.”

“I’m totally on Rhianna’s side,” he adds. “Aren’t you?”


Acknowledgements

“My Parents Are, Like, So Weird” first appeared in my old blog Boomeranging It: Returning to the Parental Home at Age 43 on July 22, 2009.