My dad is a bad influence on me. No, he doesn't smoke in the house or bet on the greyhounds. He doesn't squander money on Elvis decanters, or drive around without buckling his seat belt.
At age eighty-four, it's hard to revel in many sins and vices beyond hoarding a huge collection of condiments in the refrigerator. Still, Dad manages to model behaviors that his youngish daughter shouldn't pick up.
Yes. You guessed it. Dad yells at squirrels. Sometimes he slams the windows shut-open-shut to emphasize his disgust with squirrels. And now, I'm embarrassed to admit, I've slammed a door and yelled my displeasure at a squirrel.
True, the squirrel deserved it. I kid you not. The squirrel deserved to be handcuffed and sent up river to the Federal Pen at Leavenworth for tax evasion. The squirrel showed absolutely no remorse and exhibited every indication of being a serial finch feeder criminal. The only good thing I can say about the aforesaid squirrel is that it had no visible tattoos or piercings. I'm betting it used steroid performance-enhancers, though.
Dad has lived in the same house since he bought it with a VA loan in 1958. The house sits on an oversized lot, and if you climbed the hill in the backyard back in 1958 you could look out to the far horizon in three directions. You could watch for the Echo orbiting satellite or the country club's Fourth of July fireworks display without anything obstructing your view.
The tiny pine trees planted on the perimeter of the backyard were about knee-high to a three year-old. Wildlife in the neighborhood consisted of large, plentiful, scary grasshoppers, bagworms on the juniper bushes, and the dogcatcher chasing after our neighbor's runaway springer spaniel.
Dad's backyard looks like a wildlife refuge these days. Peaceful, idyllic, Disneyesque? No. That's just a veneer, an illusion... Dad claims the Squirrel Mafia controls the turf, and barely deigns to let him keep living in the house, even though the mortgage was paid off years ago.
I know next to nothing about Tony, Carmela, and Paulie Walnuts. When I've caught the occasional "Sopranos" rerun on A&E, I've thought Tony looked like one of the very well-fed squirrels in Dad's backyard. A squirrel who wants you to know it will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, no matter who gets whacked. A squirrel who munches maple tree whirlybirds while it chooses oldies on the jukebox.
This arrogant behavior can unleash a certain level of resentment that plays out as ineffectual yelling and slamming. The resentment is passed along to the next generation.
Back home, this resentment breaks out when a squirrel pillages my thistle seed-filled finch feeder. I come unglued at the squirrel's in-your-face leap from fence to feeder. The invader slurps down the food honestly and legitimately provided for hard-working small business-owning rosy house finches.
I slap the window glass. The squirrel keeps slurping. I open the patio door. The squirrel eyes me with the contempt a gum-chewing eighth-grader extramural star gives the teacher who sponsors the AV club nerds.
I explain in loud and no uncertain terms that the squirrel is an unwanted intruder at the finch feeder with no legal rights or privileges. The squirrel just dares me to do something about it. The Squirrel Mafia already controls both the condo association board of directors and the management company.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder