Serialization: Why My Dad Hates Ice Cream (1)

     My Father is a lawyer.  And so am I.  We both are proud of

what we do for a living.  We refer to it as a profession, never as

a business.  With us it’s always “the profession of law,” and never

“the legal business.”
     But there was a time, about a dozen years ago (and nearly a

decade before I graduated from law school and passed the

Pennsylvania bar), when the old man temporarily lost his faith in

his chosen profession.  That loss of faith first became apparent to

the rest of the family when he started making observations such as,

“The times sure have changed since I started practicing law,” and

“Now, we lawyers eat what we kill.”
     And that’s why, when Claire and I wanted to get even with Dad,

let’s say for not letting us go to a new film we wanted to see,‘x‑ò0*0*0*∞

just because it was rated “R”, we possessed the perfect weapon for

doing it.
     What we did in those days was to wait until after dinner, when

Archie (that’s our Dad) was in his study doing a little of his

endless paperwork, before he moved to the bedroom and watched TV

with Mom.  Then we stood in the center hall outside the door of the

study and carried on a conversation, just as if we didn’t even know

that he was only a few feet away at his desk.  The conversation

might start out being about almost anything.  But very quickly, it

turned to lawyer jokes.
     For instance, I’d say to Claire, “What do you have, if you

have 200 lawyers up to their necks in sand?”  And Claire would

answer, “Not enough sand.”
     Then she’d come back with, “Did you hear they’re using lawyers

instead of laboratory rats now?”
     And my reply was, “Yeh, they found out that there are some

things even rats won’t do.”
     The only clue we’d have at this point that old Arch heard us

at all was that the slight squeaking, which his desk chair made

when he rocked back and forth, had stopped.  In fact, no sound, no

sign of movement, came from the study after our first joke or two.
     Next I might say to Claire,  “What’s the difference between

somebody running over a snake and running over a lawyer?”  By now

Claire would have started giggling a little and her voice always

came out a little bit higher. “Skid marks in front of the snake,”

she’d reply in near©falsetto tones.‘’[1][1]0*†(†(∞

‘å     The silence would now be deafening from within Dad’s “sanctum

sanctorum”, as Mom had (somewhat sarcastically) dubbed the room,

perhaps always resenting a little that his demand for a home office

deprived her of a formal dining room.
     Claire’s giggling was now almost uncontrollable, as I pushed

forward without mercy.  “Why won’t a shark eat a lawyer who’s

swimming past it?”  Claire had to fight for control, barely able to

blurt between giggles, “Professional courtesy.”
     Then a new kind of squeak was heard from within the inner

sanctum, as the old man pushed his chair back from the rolltop desk

and the old leather chair’s little brass wheels let out their

distinctive whistling sound.  This was the signal for Claire and me

to cut and run for our rooms.  Archie never hollered anything after

us as we scrambled up the stairs and headed for our own sanctum

sanctorums (sanctori?  They don’t teach much Latin in law schools

anymore).  Usually, seeing that we’d made another clean getaway, he

just waddled off to the kitchen, made himself a sandwich, grabbed

a beer and joined Mom on their bed for some prime time viewing

pleasure.  At last when I finally ventured out a half hour or so

later, usually to make a furtive trip to the second floor bathroom,

that was where I spotted him out of the corner of my eye.  The

empty beer bottle and plate on his nightstand and his round melon

face settled into a contented expression visible in the glow of the

boob tube were the eloquent evidence that my deductions were at

least approximately accurate.‘Ä%


‘å    You have probably guessed from that brief description that my

old man was fat…still is, though at 57 he actually looks trimmer

and healthier than he did a decade or so earlier, when this little

memoir was taking place.  Then he was in truth a fat slob.  I don’t

say that because I hated my dad or anything like that.  I’ve always

loved Archie, as long as I can remember, and adolescence was no

exception.  For me that was 16 years of love at the time the

following events began unfolding in and around the environs of our

little household in Havertown, Pennsylvania, one of Philadelphia’s

many northwestern suburbs.  But no matter how much you loved

Archie, and we all did ©©© Mom, Claire, me, even Ralphie, our

doberman ©©© no one of us could ever pretend we thought he was

anything but fat.  Plump just didn’t describe my Pop.
     And I guess I have to add that, even though I loved him a lot,

and liked him pretty well too ©©© he’s always been a terrific

playmate ©©© I never really respected my Dad up to that time.  He

was always a hard guy to take seriously.  I think Dr. Swenson, the

school psychologist would have said, if anybody had asked her, that

Archie had “a poor self©image.”  He weighed about 275 pounds, and

that was before the football season, which meant lots of beer and

hoagies and stuff, followed hopelessly by the holiday season:

turkeys, pies, cookies, candy.  Then 300 pounds might be

approached, and maybe even surpassed.  The old man was like that.
   Mom still loved him though.  He said once that she was the only

girl he ever had.  I believed him.  He wasn’t exactly cholesterol’s‘Ä%


answer to James Bond.  I don’t even think he was such a great

    That’s why even after us kids were born, she had kept right on

working as an accountant, eventually working her way up to

Controller at a company called Regional Econometric Forecasting

Associates, a fairly prestigious consulting firm in nearby Bala

Cynwyd on Philadelphia’s Main Line.
     And that’s why I’ve always to this day found it kind of

strange that my Pop, Archibald Edwin McAdoo III, should have

decided at that point in his life ©©© in the midst of a career

slump and the onslaught of an obese middle age ©©© to become a

crusader for the integrity of the legal profession, which afterall

had rewarded him only very modestly and grudgingly.  How much our

little charade outside his office door, which Claire and I pulled

on him maybe half a dozen times in perhaps as many weeks toward the

tail end of the calendar year (which happened to be 1984) helped to

push him over the brink and into his fateful decision, I really

don’t know.  Archie probably would have taken the Dennis Lustig

case anyway.  Or maybe not.  Since lawyer jokes  still hit a sore

spot in his psyche, I’ve never asked my old man how much our pranks

figured into the undoubtedly©complex mix of circumstances and

events which led to him taking on the first pro bono (a/k/a free)

legal representation of his near©twenty©year career as a solo

practitioner.  Maybe someday I will.
     No matter… as miserable as our year of living with √
√Lustig v.

Freeman’s Dairy Bar & Restaurantƒ
ƒ, was, somehow it did Archie’s‘’[1]0*†(†(∞

battered ego a lot of good.  No, this won’t be the story of how

Archibald McAdoo became the Main Line’s leading legal eagle. Nor is

it the legendary recounting of how one lonely and embattled

attorney in a Phillie suburb single©handedly resuscitated the

flagging reputation of a profession grown fat and greedy.  Neither

of those things happened in 1985 and 1986, when this story

unfolded.  But it is the tale of how one fat, middle©aged, and

seemingly mediocre attorney discovered in himself the courage and

devotion he needed not only to see a bad situation through to its

end, but also to face middle age, and perhaps even old age, with

the smile of a man who is content with the fate the gods have

chosen for him.
   The case also did Archie’s bulbous body some good, I believe,

because by the time it was all over, Dad apparently had lost his

taste for ice cream… a lifestyle change that has perhaps

prevented his overtaxed arteries from clogging up completely with

fat… at least so far.


One Response to “Serialization: Why My Dad Hates Ice Cream (1)”

  1. the desk chairs that our mom use are always leather based instead of using cloth covers*–

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