From Going Around with Bachelors, published by Brick Books in 2007.
My father never wanted anything. Everything was a fight, Mom said. He didn’t want the telephone and he still doesn’t know how to talk on it. He didn’t want the television but now where is he every Friday night but plunked down in the parlor watching Cher. He wouldn’t miss it for Mass. He definitely didn’t want the refrigerator. He thought it was only a gadget to fill up space.
Mom was fidgety the day it was due to arrive from town. She kept going to the door to look out and she kept drying her hands on her apron when they weren’t even wet. “Where’s your father now?” she kept asking over her shoulder. “In the shed,” I kept saying. Finally it came and was landed on our doorstep. The men never brought it in so Mom had to go out and get Dad to help us put it on one of the old throw mats and haul and push it into the kitchen. He was looking at it with a funny glint in his eye. Not a mad look, but something else and I couldn’t tell what it was. When we had it shoved in the corner, back up against the wall, he kept saying, “Careful now. Mind, mind.” I thought to myself, Jeez, he’s glad we got it. Imagine that! Mom started cutting at the cardboard box with the bread knife when Dad said “No, no, let me at it.” He was so careful, took so long I thought Mom would blow a gasket. He only cut the front of the box away, would not cut the sides or the top or the bottom. “For God’s sake, Bill,” Mom said. “I know what I’m at,” he said to her. It was hard to get the fridge out because there was hardly any place to put our hands in order to grab ahold to it. Finally we had to haul and wedge it out by the open door of it.
When we had it out Dad backed down the hall with the box in tow. He never even looked at the fridge. He took his chair out of its spot in the parlour and put the fridge box in its place. Then he got one of Mom’s braided mats and put it on the floor of the box and then he put his chair in the box. And that’s where he sat every time he sat in the parlor. Mom said, “Bill, you’re not going sitting in that box?” “It’s cozy,” Dad said, “it keeps the drafts off me.” You see, my father was a man obsessed with keeping warm. He even used to put his tools in the oven at night so they’d be warm for the morning. We’d say, “Dad, your hammer is ready. Dad, your saw is done.” Men would come to visit him as he sat in his box. They’d say, “That’s a dandy box you got there Bill b’y.” No one paid much mind to it. No one thought it was odd. Because, you see, that was a time when the old people used everything.