My dad is normally okay.
Well, okay might be pushing it.
He is in the local Mormon stake presidency, where he often gives talks on lovely things like the love of God, forgiveness, and mercy. He always seems pretty mild-mannered and good natured in public.
It’s all a lie.
I suppose I should clarify slightly. My dad believes in all those things. He normally IS mild mannered. But he does have a breaking point. Everyone does. His is just rather unusual. It involves raspberries.
Two years ago my sister met her future husband. They fell in love.
We were all thrilled. Especially me.
It was decided to have the reception for them in my parents backyard. Unfortunately, our yard at the time was in no condition for human habitation.
Some of the bushes were so wild they had developed a taste for blood. Small squirrels were often seen being dragged screeching into them, never to be seen again. This is how out of control our yard was.
So my family and I spent hundreds of hours outside, beating back the carnivorous plants and feral weed patches. (My parents still haven’t paid me for this work. I plan on shipping them to a discount nursing home the moment they turn sixty five.)
My dad was in heaven because it let him hang out with his raspberry patch. He is…how do I put this…rather fond of raspberries. Perhaps to the point of absurdity.
The man spends HOURS outside each summer, cultivating, tending, trimming his beloved raspberries; interestingly enough, however, he is never the one to go out and collect the horse manure needed to fertilize them.
But I digress. So while the rest of us weeded, pruned, dug and mowed, Dad spent his time with the raspberries. His idea was actually a pretty good one: guests could pick and eat the raspberries right off the plants during the reception.
There was one small wrinkle in this plan, however. It involved a cunning and clever family of robins.
A mommy and daddy robin had three little babies in one of the non-carnivorous trees in the backyard. My dad initially fell in love with them. They would hop drunkenly around the yard, digging for worms and cheeping in an endearing fashion.
Everything was coming together nicely. The yard was beautiful, the dandelions defeated. Everything was perfect; the gigantic raspberries were just beginning to ripen in the July heat. And that is when disaster struck.
My dad went out one Saturday a few weeks before the wedding. He wandered through the yard past the whimpering bushes and de-pooped dog pen.
Then he got to the raspberries and stopped cold. Half of them were missing! Eaten right off the plant! Dad was furious.
He rounded on my sisters.
He accused the dog.
He swore eternal vengeance on the sinister fiend who was stealing his precious raspberries. They would pay for their thievery!
My brother completed his nightly weeding project in a flower garden later that night. As he walked back to the house he passed the raspberry patch-and a clearly gorged, rotund baby robin hopped out the patch, a raspberry clutched in its beak.
Dad was speechless with impotent rage. The robins had betrayed his generosity, his hospitality, and THEY MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO WIN. My dad struck back the next morning.
He hung tinfoil around the patch to scare them away:
He patrolled the raspberries with my brother’s bb gun:
And he forced the cats to stay outside for days at a time.
Nothing worked. My father, a college graduate and skilled government official, was being routed by a bunch of bloated baby birds. My dad’s rage began to reach a fever pitch.
A week later I came over for Sunday dinner. My sister and future brother in law were in the yard admiring the view as I pulled up, and I walked over to talk to them. Birds were chirping, flowers blooming, the whole lawn a garden.It was beautiful. It was peaceful. It was rudely interrupted.
Dad had been keeping watch over the raspberries from the kitchen window as one of the baby robins hopped into the raspberry patch, saliva dripping from its beak. With an almighty roar my dad erupted from the house like a vengeful demon spat from the depths of hell itself. One hand was waving like a drunken windmill over his head; the other clutched a bloody knife he had been using to prepare dinner.
He streaked towards the raspberry patch, blood dripping from his knife, sweeping right past us in righteous indignation.The bird, fear in its beady little eyes, snatched up a raspberry and tore out of the patch as fast as its tubby little legs could carry it, too young (or too fat) to fly.
Dad zoomed across the yard after it, hatred etched in his face and fury in his heart. In the heat of the moment, he forgot he was outside where anyone could hear him, where everyone could see him. None of that mattered anymore. All the anger, all the rage, all the raw fury came rushing out of him in a great roar of sound.
It was in this moment that the still functioning portion of my father’s brain recognized that some of his children and a future in-law were standing in the yard, feet from the raspberry patch, witness to a middle-aged man losing his mind over a bird stealing home-grown fruit.
At this point my brother in law began to wonder what sort of family he was marrying into.
Dad threw the knife behind him and tried to act normal.
We ate Sunday dinner in stunned silence.
The explosion, however, worked. Within a few days the robin family had decamped to less homicidal pastures, and there were still enough raspberries to use at the reception.
No one ate them however. It seems Dad had placed too much manure on the patch.