Earlier on in school in Claremont, when I was quite young, perhaps in my last year of grammar school, all the boys I knew would make plastic models of airplanes, and some even made remote control airplanes on a wire attached to the wooden box with the controllers for flaps, tails, and joystick, and they would fly on the school baseball fields until they crashed in front of their uncles destroying their creation completely and they'd be embarrassed.
I figured I could make models, too. So I rode my bike to the Safeway center, new then, and over the course of a number of months bought a few things in boxes. One was a 1959 Ford Galaxie convertible (that I painted deep blue), which is the car I wanted to own.
Another was the statue of a knight that I was assembling as a father's day present for my dad, rather than just giving him the usual tie or after shave (although I had purchased a pretty damn good after shave for him one previous year, in my Banana Boat years, but he apparently didn't like it. And my mother hated it, as it would seem my Dad had been drinking when he used it, and she was constantly giving out strong anti-alcohol messages because of her own upbringing).
So I assembled this statue of a knight (to say "you are a brave defender and knight in shining armor to us") in the back of the house, secretly with the door closed so no one would spoil the surprise, and with only the window slid open for ventilation on a hot summer day.
I worked for hours reading the instructions in small print and following assembly protocols. Well, those sure are some strong fumes the plastic cement would put out, and I barely noticed the difference when I finished the gray plastic knight but my sister thought the results hilarious, as he was standing quite alist, like the leaning tower of Pisa. I probably was, too, and I hoped to disassemble the figure while the glue was still moist to make for a more proper posture, but my sister had stolen the remaining tube of glue and one of my mother's nylons, so I would have to give the statue to my dad as it was.
Which I did do and I later caught my sister showing my creation to Frank one time (it was on my father's dresser by then, a bit after Father's Day). Frank would talk with me about this, what did I like about knights, then the jousting on horseback and how the horses wore clothes, and so eventually down the road we'd watch a puppet show on television that had puppet knights jousting on puppet horses who would wear clothes. Everyone had a shield with a coat of arms, and as it turned out, so did my Dad's family, despite all odds, and I was quite proud of that.
And suddenly my mother would erupt when they came back in the living room, after listening in on some our conversation, and scold me and say, "What's so great about knights anyway? All they did was ride around killing people."
Other times after Frank had visited, she could only talk about the conversation they'd just had, which I didn't hear, which must have frightened her a great deal as she was familiar with hearing about mustard gas from the stories the old wounded veteran told her when she was a kid in Kentucky. She'd go on and on about mustard gas and .... give vivid details from the original All Quiet On the Western Front and almost act out all the parts of the film characters as she continued.
My dad had a stressful job and he had developed ulcers. We were sympathetic to ulcers, and when on occasion we would see Frank doubling over at the table and not able to eat the meal we had prepared, we understood and felt for him.
We would also tell Frank about all the current ulcer research we had access to and the special bland diet my dad was on and even give him mimeographed copies of that diet (as my Dad would pick up extras at the doctor's office). We would lie and say we enjoyed the food, too, dinners with Dad now that he was on a bland diet. But the diet was so bland, my father would push away his plate in disgust as if it were a reminder of his own frailty, and I couldn't blame him a bit.