Sunday, August 14, 2022

Policing My Brothers and Me

I was fortunate to grow up in a household with 2 older brothers. One is about 5 or 6 years older than me and one is about 3 years older than me. Both were great brothers growing up and to this day I look up to them. They always looked out for me and for the most part they kept me safe from the everyday things a kid could get into back then. I’ll probably never know if it was genuine concern for their little sister or the thought of our dad finding out they weren’t watching over me. You see our dad was a St. Paul Police Officer back in the days when rather than arresting a kid and bringing them to the juvenile detention center, the officers would bring them home to face their parents. Sometimes that would be way worse. And our dad lived by that principle…when we heard “Wait til your Father gets home”, it was the longest time spent waiting for whatever the consequence was he would deliver. Our Dad was a great Dad but we knew to behave…just because he could give us “the look””…or a good swat across the behind. Never abusive, but always effective.

Being the only girl and the youngest, I am sure I got away with way more than my brothers did. Being my brothers were older, they seemed to get into more trouble and shenanigans than I did. Or at least it seems they got caught more often.

One of the most memorable times I have of my oldest brother was one St Patrick’s Day. He was a junior or senior in high school and decided to skip school and go to the big parade downtown celebrating being Irish and St Patrick’s Day. St Paul always had a huge festive parade with lots of green beer and many people out marching and celebrating St Patrick’s Day. My oldest brother decided it would be fun to march in the parade. Mind you, we are not a single bit Irish.

The day started like any other school day, my brother got to drive the newer Chevy Caprice we had to school. Me and my other brother went our ways off to school. I was in grade school and my two brothers were at different high schools. Our Dad always allowed us to choose what high school we wanted to go to…as long as it was Catholic. 

The school day came to an end for me and I walked the mile home and came into the house to find my oldest brother sitting on the footstool holding his white T-shirt up to his bloody nose and our Dad sitting in the chair facing him. My brother was apologizing and crying and our Dad, sitting there in his police uniform, was trying to find out what had happened. 

Well seeing the sight and how upset my brother was and how calm my dad was, I knew it was best if I just went to my room and holed up there until the coast was clear to come back downstairs. It would be a long time until I found out what happened that day. 

My brother made it to the parade and was marching in it along with many others who were drinking and drunk. He and his friends got into an all out fist fight with another group of guys. All had been drinking and my brother got his nose punched and broken. This was just one of the many times he got his nose broken in his youth. Hockey and other sports took its toll on my oldest brother’s nose. And back then we didn’t run to the doctor every time he got a pop to the nose. My oldest brother has a nose that looks like the boxers you see pictures of on tv…pretty flat.

Not only did he get in a fight, but he also had been drinking the green beer and somehow managed to wreck the car that day. It was a time when our dad’s quietness was way more scary than if he would have blown his cork and yelled at my brother. We were all more used to getting a firm yelling or even a belt to the behind. Well at least my brothers were. I can honestly say I never got many spankings as a kid, my dad would just use a tone of voice that scared me straight into behaving.

A few years later my other brother managed to get the wrath of our dad at a wedding up North. We were at a family wedding and it was the traditional My Big Fat Hungarian Wedding. There were many relatives, lots of drinking and polka music, just like all the weddings on my mom’s side of the family. It was a time for us kids to hang out with all of our cousins while the adults ate and drank and would Polka and Waltz and Schottische. It was always a great day of celebrating when my mom and her family got out on the dance floor.

Meanwhile while the adults were celebrating, my 16 year old brother and another cousin were sneaking drinks and feeling the effects. They were out on the church steps when our dad found him sloshed. My brother was hauled into the back seat of the car with our dad’s face beat red. We were ready to make the 120 mile trip home with my brother full of whatever he had been drinking and our dad fuming mad at my brother’s choices.

The drive home consisted of my brother saying he didn’t feel too good and our dad having to stop the car often so my brother could throw up. Somewhere between our dad setting his jaw and being silent and about the 2nd or 3rd stop for my brother to puke his guys out, our dad lost it. He looked at my brother and threatened to make him stand there and drink a quart of whiskey. That caused my brother to puke some more. It was a long drive home but we made it and my brother lived to see another day… hungover. 

My most memorable story of me in getting trouble with our dad was when I was about 10 and my mom found matches in my pocket. When she asked what I was doing with them, I froze. She asked if I had been playing with matches and I shook my head yes. I got the “Wait til your Father gets home” comment and trembling went to my room to wait out my fate. It would be hours before he got home.

When he finally got home I came downstairs and found him holding the match book from my pocket. I started crying and told him I had tried starting a campfire between the garages. He stood me in front of him holding my arms both firmly and gently at the same time and told me never to play with matches again, I could have burned down the garages. I was sobbing at this point. I think he figured he had gotten his point across and that was the end of me and matches and fire until I was older. 

My second oldest brother turned 68 this week. I find that so incredible to think that me and my brothers are getting old. My brothers and I have outlived our parents and the ages they left us by many years. We have been so fortunate  to see our kids get married and start families, something our parents lost out on for the most part way back when. 

My brothers and I now have grown kids of our own and they are raising their kids to be the best they can be. And they all are turning out to be caring and decent human beings as they are entering into adulthood. Is it because our kids are doing a great job with their kids? You betcha. Is it also a result of them being raised by us,their parents? Of course. But that only happened because we had St Paul Police Officer Dad to make us who we are today. If you’re listening and watching Dad, you did alright by all of us including your great grandkids. 

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