When I was in my very early teens I came home from smoking pot with friends after school.
My dad, who was an teacher at another high school, took one look at me and pretty much instantly figured out what I’d been up to.
It could have been that I’d forgotten my eye drops and my eyes looked like fiery biscuits . Or that I spent ten minutes admiring an orange before peeling it or just the fact that he saw stoner kids everyday at his work and smelt it a mile away.
“Hello PlusOne, ” he said. “sit down at the table with me, please”.
He didn’t tell me that he knew. He didn’t shout or yell. He sat there for a minute thinking, looked at me directly in the eye and said
“You know, when I was at uni I tried pot.”
This was a shock, as I knew my parents drunk socially but I never thought that they’d done much else. They seemed so straight-laced. True, my dad had a giant beard and looked like a biker, but when he sneezed it sounded like a tiny kitten.
My parents were so kind, loving and involved with my brother and I, that I, as the selfish little ingrate of a teenager that i was, never even imagined they’d had a interesting life before we’d graced them with our existence.
“it wasn’t much good tho” he mused.
“Tell me about it?” I urged, thrilled that he was talking to me about this youthful indiscretion.
“I’m telling you this in confidence because it’s embarrassing. Understand? Really embarrassing.”
I nodded. He was an excellent dad and I felt this amazing connection that I’d never felt before with him, as though we were equals, almost friends.
“I was at my mates house and we were about 19. They were having a party, there were heaps of people everywhere and someone bought out some pot. I’d had a few wines and stupidly decided that I’d have a go on a joint. “
He paused and looked sad. Pensive.
“and then?” I prompted.
He sighed. “it was great for a bit. We listened to music and it was pretty cool. But then i got really sleepy and fell asleep on the couch”
“And? Thats all? That’s your bad experience? You smoked pot, and it made you sleep?”
“No, smart arse, it made me wee myself on the couch. I woke up surrounded by everyone and I’d urinated in my pants”
Holy shit. I was stunned. I felt proud and honored that my dad trusted me enough to tell me that story and the fact that I was high suddenly made me want to check that I hadn’t peed my self unknowingly too.
“Oh. Your. God. That blows, Dad. Did you ever try it again?” I asked, in the interest of scientific inquiry. Maybe it was a once off thing. Maybe that wouldn’t happen to me.
“PlusOne, I just told you that I peed myself on a friends couch and you are asking me if I tried it again? I’m not a masochist! It was really really embarrassing. I’m only telling you because I don’t want it to happen to you. It could be a genetic thing. You shouldn’t smoke pot. Ever. It’s different stuff now to those days too. It’s stronger. “
“Wow. Um. Yes. Thank you for sharing that with me. I feel really honored that you told me. Now on an unrelated note, completely nothing to do with that story, I need to pee. ” I said sheepishly as I gave him a hug.
As I sat and peed and looked at the rough plastered walls of the toilet I thought about what he’d said.
How embarrassing that must have been.
How courageous he was opening himself up to me and telling me that story so it wouldn’t happen to me. How much that swirl of plaster looked like Elton John in a tutu holding a cat.
And I vowed I wouldn’t smoke pot again.
I wish I could say that vow actually lasted. But I was willful self destructive bugger of a teenager and I was smoking again within six weeks.
Still. The memory of that conversation, the vulnerability of my dad and his honesty stuck with me.
I came through my horrible teenage years stronger and wiser. Although it took a while. And I put my poor parents through hell. There were direct confrontations and open dialogues about everything, they were so long suffering, patient and loving.
When I was twenty my wonderful dad was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a then terminal cancer caused by asbestos. He’d got exposed on the building sites, sweeping up after his Dad when he was seven.
In nine months he went from being an amazingly fit man who cycled his bike to work and back daily, hand glided, fished, surfed, dived and windsurfed to not being able to tie his shoelaces without puffing from exhaustion.
When we knew he was dying I went out to him. He was in the sun lounger/swing in the beautiful backyard that he, Mum and their friends had built so lovingly together and I blurted out, remembering his story but wanting to help;
“Dad, I know you told me years ago that smoking pot make you pee at that party, but I’ve heard it’s really good for pain and can help stimulate your appetite, and I can probably get you some if you want, maybe, and I’m sorry to bring it up…”
I spoke breathlessly but finished abruptly when I saw the grin on his face.
He had the best laughlines, carved deep from years of great hilarious stories and smiles.
“Dad?” I questioned suspiciously. “what’s so funny?”
“bahahahaha! I made that story up, AND you’re about the fifth person to offer me pot this week!”
“Simmo just offered me an ounce!”
“What?!” Simmo was another allegedly straight laced old uni friend of his.
“I didn’t want you smoking pot, and I knew you were stoned so I told you that story so you wouldn’t do it.” He paused. “And to mess with you.” He grinned.
“Oh my god! You made that all up? I thought we were having this amazing connection thing and it was all crap?”
I spluttered. I couldn’t help but start laughing. “You bugger!”
“Honey, sometimes -a lot of the time-as a parent we are making it up as we go along. I know that that story didn’t work in the long term but it made you think and you know I did it with the best intentions. I’m sorry! I love you and your brother so much and I’m so proud of you guys and what you’ve achieved. When your kids are bigger, you’ll understand about the fibs we have to tell sometimes. And.. How funny it can be.”
I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.
He sat back in the lounger, so skinny from the cancer it almost broke my heart, and pulled out what looked like a cigar. He blinked and smiled at me over his mighty beard.
“Since when have you started smoking again, Dad?” I quizzed.
He’d quit when we were kids, when we pestered him over and over to stop.
“I’m dying, my darling” he said grandly ” There’s no point in not smoking now.”
As he lit it, I smelt the old, almost forgotten smell of marijuana.
He winked at me. “Go make your old Dad a sandwich, will you honey? I’ll be hungry in a minute hopefully.”
Now that the kids are older they’ve figured out that when the ice cream truck is playing the music it DOESN’T mean that there is no ice cream left or when I squeeze their hands it doesn’t tell me how much water they’ve been drinking and they gleefully tell their friends how they were tricked. They think it’s hilarious.
Like I told my friends about my Dad.
And since that the kids are old enough now we’ll continue to have an open dialogue about how pot isn’t very good for you at all (in my opinion) ..but it don’t make you pee the bed.
With love to all you good parents and step parents out there,