Serialization: Why My Dad Hates Ice Cream (2)

åChapter Two    
     The first clue that Claire and Mom and I had that Dennis J,

Lustig was about to become a character in our little family drama

came during the after©dinner conversation that occurred around our

small oak kitchen table one rainy and raw evening in late January

1985.  Dinner had been chicken, mashed potatoes and peas that Mom

had picked up from a new place that had just opened in the Lawrence

Park Shopping Center called Boston Chicken,  She had stopped there

on her way home from work, then warmed the meal up in our microwave

oven when she got home.  She had been the last one home that

evening and her silence through most of the meal was a sure sign

that she was tired.  I think it was a Thursday.  That late in the

week Mom usually was just hanging on and hoping for a quiet

      Desert was Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream, Archie’s

personal favorite.  A half gallon had been his contribution to the

meal.  He had picked it up on his was home from a meeting in New

Hope, a tourist town in southern Bucks County, not very many miles

up the Delaware River to the northeast of Philadelphia.
      Archie carefully scooped the last residue of melted ice cream

from the bottom of his bowl, followed it with a sip of coffee from

the mug that he lifted to his full, pink lips and then placed back

on the table.  Then he cleared his throat.  I was too young and

self©absorbed back then to recognize this as Pop’s little ritual

before making some kind of momentous‘Ä%0*†(†(∞

‘åannouncement to the rest of the family. (Two years later, when he

went through the same routine before announcing that we were moving

to San Diego, thus ruining my senior year in high school, I at

least was forewarned by the same little routine, which by then I

was attuned to.)  Mom, as I say, was beat and so wasn’t picking up

on Archie’s body language either.
    Seeing that Claire and I had just continued chatting about the

latest middle school and high school gossip, while Mom remained

quietly in her own little world ©©© probably mulling over some

problem she should have left back at the office ©©© Arch cleared

his throat again, a little louder this time.
     Satisfied that he finally had our attention, he said,”Your

Dad’s going to be in the √
ƒ tomorrow morning.”  Saying ‘your

dad’ made this piece of news sound as if it was directed to Claire

and me.  But I noticed Pop cast a nervous glance in Mom’s

direction.  The sheepishness of that glance tipped me to anticipate

that Mom was not going to welcome with open arms the old man’s

apparent run at middle©aged celebrityship.
      Archie didn’t say anything more for the moment.  I guess he

was waiting for one of us to rise to the bait.  But Mom just stared

at him from behind the rim of her own mug, which was poised in

front of her mouth.  As I said, I was on my guard because of the

way Arch was looking at Mom.  I guess maybe Claire had picked up

the same storm signals I had.  And so we both sat quietly, waiting

for the second shoe to fall.

‘å      In a matter of seconds, down it came.  “I agreed to be co™counsel in that Lustig case I told you about.”  This time the

comment was directed at its true target… Mom.  Claire and I were

just being used by Archie the way he often used us in those days,

as shields to hide behind, when he knew that if he and Mom were

having the same conversation alone in their bedroom, she’d rip into

     Mom put down her mug ever so slowly and wearily, and let out

a long sigh.  For a couple more seconds I think we all thought she

again was going to remain silent.  In those seconds, old Arch must

have been casting about in that big cantelope©head of his for his

next line.
     But at last she said, looking him squarely in the eyes, “I

thought we agreed that you’re too busy to take on any charity

     Breaking the hold Mom’s eyes had on his own, Archie looked

down into the depths of his coffee mug… the one that read “Life

should be led like a cavalry charge.”  A little more throat

clearing ensued.
     “Karen, I know.  But Larry Berger called again yesterday and

asked me to just drive up to his office and meet the client and

confer on the matter.  Just give him my views on it.”
     Archie gently touched the handle of the white porcelain mug

with his pudgy forefinger, nudging it slowly, absent©mindedly away

from him.‘Ä%     0*†(†(∞

‘å     “One thing just led to another,” he continued slowly,

deliberately, and nervously.  “I liked Lustig.  And I owe Larry.

Anyway, I stayed for lunch.  And then when we got back to Larry’s

office, there was this reporter waiting for us from the √

and she wanted to know if we were the attorneys who were

representing Lustig in what would be the first AIDS discrimination

case in Bucks County… heck, even in Greater Philadelphia,” he

added with emphasis, defensively.
    Mom interrupted.  “So let me guess:  good ol’ Larry looked at

you and you looked at that reporter and said, ‘Oh, yes, that’s us.’

That about it, Arch?”
     If Mom had brought a balloon out from behind her chair at that

moment and slowly let the air hiss out of it, the effect could not

have been more graphic.  You could almost hear the little fella

that lives inside the old man’s great big round head scrambling

around in there, frantically searching for the right response.  One

choice, I guess, was self©righteous anger.. maybe even the old push

back from the table followed by the trusty stomp out of the room

and into the study, capped by the resolute door slam.  The trouble

with that one was that, not only was it out of character for Archie

©©© whose mediocrity as a lawyer stemmed not from any lack of

brains or knowledge, but from a natural timidity that ill©suited

him for his chosen profession ©©© but also it left him trapped in

his own fortress later on in the evening, when he would really want

to be up in bed with a beer and a sandwich.‘Ä%

‘å   Consequently he rejected the dramatic in favor of the

sympathetic option.  “Karen, if you only could have been there and

met Denny Lustig.  Then you’d know this is the right thing to do.

It’s what any decent, caring attorney in this town ought to do.”

Well, there it was… the old man’s recent obscession with the

declining integrity and social standing of his profession was on

the table. The lawyer jokes that Claire and I so cherished, all the

bad press about attorneys which was to get so much worse in the

decade that lay ahead, plus Archie’s own struggle to gain a small

measure of recognition in his community and, yes, in his own house

I suppose, had combined and led him to take the plunge into the

Lustig case that rainy winter day.    
      Then Mom said something that came of her fatigue and

frustration, the first built up over the past week, the second

built up over the 18 years she and Dad had been married by then.

“Every caring attorney in this town isn’t struggling to barely make

$30,000 in a good year, Archie.  But you are.  How many hours will

this tilting at your personal little windmill cost us?  Look, we

talked about this.  We said we wanted Claire in Episcopal this

fall.  Where did all that go after lunch today? 
What happened to caring about your own family?” 
     Mom’s voice shook a little, though she never raised it during

that little speech.  She had never before raised the issue of

Archie being a poor provider in front of us kids before, and I

could see from the look on her face that she regretted it as soon

as she said it.‘’

‘å     “I care about this family,” was all Archie replied, this

nearly in a whisper.
      In the end it was Mom who pushed back her chair, not angrily

but wearily, and walked away from the table, leaving the rest of us

just sitting there in silence. 
      It was Pop who broke the silence, looking very deliberately

first at Claire and then at me.  “I do care about you guys,” he

said, a hook of emotion catching the words in his throat.  “This

case will actually help my practice.  I just wish I could make your

Mom see that.”  He seemed to be waiting for a response, some word

of approval or encouragement from his kids, but we were a little

too startled by all that had happened in the past sixty seconds to

say anything. So he too got up and left the table, retreating to

his ‘sanctum sanctorum.’  Claire and I heard the door close quietly

behind him. 
      Claire and I cleared the table, rinsed the dishes and put

them into the dishwasher, all the while being uncharacteristically

unconversational for two teenagers. 
    Then we went up to our rooms.  Later that evening, when I made

my last trip to the bathroom before hitting the sack, I saw that

the door of the master bedroom was open only a couple of inches. 

I glimpsed Mom, sound asleep in the flickering glow of the TV tube.

She was alone in the bed.


‘åChapter Three
     The next morning ©©© Friday ©©© my alarm went off and I was

out of bed half an hour sooner than usual.  I slipped downstairs as

quietly as I could and out the front door.  The rain had stopped

sometime during the night and the temperature had dropped, so that

a bitter wind waited to wish me good morning.  I gritted my teeth

and darted down the steps and onto the black macadam driveway, only

to discover, too late to spare my bedroom slippers from the puddles

that hadn’t quite iced over, that the newspaper wasn’t there

waiting for me.
     I looked at the front lawn and down the drive into the street,

my eyes squinting against the knifing winter wind.  My old

terrycloth robe flapped above and below its cloth belt.  There was

no Inquirer to be seen on our property, though I noted that both

our neighbors had received theirs.  For a furtive instant I thought

to tiptoe over to one or another of their drives and ‘borrow’ a

paper.  But, thinking quickly that I might be spotted (or at the

very least, suspected), I turned and hustled back into our house.
     I closed the heavy oak door behind me and then heard the soft

shuffling of feet coming from the kitchen.  My own feet squished a

little as I padded out there myself, rounding the corner into the

doorway in time to see Archie’s back disappear onto the enclosed

back porch Mom called our ‘sun room.’
     I walked across the kitchen, passed the round oak table where

we McAdoos ate most of our meals together, and stepped ‘Ä%


‘åquietly down the single step into the sun room.  Pop sat at the

little cast iron and glass coffee table a few feet away with the

morning paper spread out in front of him.  He sipped steaming

coffee from his big white mug with the cavalry charge motto as he

gazed intently at the right hand page of the paper lying in front

of him.  He had a sort of contented smile on his face, his lips

moved ever so slightly as he read, and he never even noticed me

enter the room.
     Tiptoeing around behind the rattan sofa where Pop was sitting,

I bent over and read from over his right shoulder.  The article was

at the top of page B1, which made it the lead article in the

Inquirer’s business section.  The headline, which covered the two

columns on the right hand side of the page, read “Former Night

Manager Sues Popular Bucks County Restaurant for AIDS

Discrimination.”  The byline said “Jane Putnam, Inquirer Staff

     The piece explained how Dennis Lustig of New Hope, who had

been first a cook for two years, then night manager of Freeman’s

Farm Dairy Bar and Restaurant for another three and a half, claimed

that he had been fired in early December, after he reported to the

owners  of the restaurant that his three©day absence was HIV

related. The article went on to quote “Philadelphia attorney

Archibald McAdoo” to the effect that, “This isn’t exactly a

lawsuit.  The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, under which we are

initiating this charge of discrimination, requires that Mr. Lustig‘Ä%

first put his case before the state’s human relations commission

for investigation. 
     “However, unless the agency acts promptly to remedy this clear

injustice, Mr. Berger and I intend to request a ‘right to sue’

letter and take our client’s case into the Bucks County Court of

Common Pleas by late summer.”
     The story pointed out that “Attorneys Berger and McAdoo have

agreed to represent Lustig for free at the request of the AIDS Law

Project of Philadelphia, which organization will provide co©counsel

for the case.  The project’s executive director, Marsha Milhouse,

added, ‘This is a test case… a case of first impression for the

PHRC and ultimately, as we expect, for the courts.  Therefore, we

are girding ourselves for a long fight.  In the end, we expect to

win and to make important new law in the process.”
      “A long fight”, I thought.  “Just what Mom wants to hear.”
      I must have mumbled the thought out loud, because Archie
jumped a little and turned around so swiftly that he spilled coffee

onto the newspaper, spattering the bottom half of his precious

claim to immortality.
     “Ned, what the devil are you doing there?” he squawked at me

in the near©falsetto his voice rose to when he was excited or

     “Sorry, Pop,” I quickly replied. “I just didn’t want to

disturb you.”  I shuffled to my left and out from behind the couch.

Archie turned back to his newspaper to find the litle puddles of‘Ä%0*†(†(∞

spilled coffee spreading like microorganisms in the porous

      “Look what you made me do, Ned,” he said in a voice about an

octave lower, looking across his left shoulder at me as I continued

my retreat out of the room and back to the kitchen.
     “Hey, Pop,” I replied, plucking up a teenager’s smart©mouthed

courage, “you might be better off covering that whole article with

coffee.  Especially that part about a long fight ahead.”
     The best defense really is a good offense, as I’ve confirmed

in my own legal practice a couple of times already.  Archie’s voice

immediately lost its angry edge.  “What do you mean?” he asked, but

I think he already knew.  He was just hoping against hope that the

problem with Mom wasn’t so serious that even his 16©year©old whelp

recognized it so plainly.
     “Mom’s not going to like that part of it,” I responded,

confirming Archie’s own fear.
     His whole round face, pock marked like a cantelope skin from

teenage acne, seemed to droop slightly, especially his round,

watery blue eyes, confessing his concern about how he was going to

see his new commitment through and continue to live in reasonable

harmony with his wife, my mother.
     He turned back to the article and I fancied he was considering

my suggestion of dumping the rest of his coffee onto the newspaper.
     I turned round and stepped through the doorway into the

kitchen, almost bumping into Mom.  I was as tall as she was already

back then, even though she was of above average height for a woman.‘’[1]0*†(†(∞

(Archie used to call her “my ultimate skinny woman”, which she

pretty much was.)  Our eyes met and hers seemed as tired as they

had seemed the evening before, as if she had not slept, or at least

not very well.  Her curly red hair was a little wild looking, like

she hadn’t combed it yet.  Without a word she squeezed past me in

the doorway and joined Archie out in the sun room.
     I went back to the center hall, up the stairs and headed for

the bathroom.  I was about to go into the bathroom when Claire’s

door opened and she said, “Hey, Ned.”  It was my turn to be a

little startled.  I turned round and saw her head, the hair every

bit as red and curly as Mom’s, poking out of her doorway.
    “Ned, what’s up?  Did Dad make the paper?”
    “Oh, yeah,” I replied.  “He’s in there, alright.  Page one of

the business section.  I’d say he made it big time.”
    “What do you think Mom’s gonna do?” she inquired, opening her

bedroom door a little bit wider, so that I could see she was

wearing the new pink robe she’d received for Christmas.
     “Don’t know,” I said.  “But she’s down in the sun room with

ol’ Arch right now.  I guess she’s just about had time to read the

     At that instant we heard a loud bang, which we both had come

to recognize as the sun room door slamming shut, as it sometimes

did in the summertime, when all the room’s windows would be wide

open and a sudden summer breeze might bang it closed.  The next

sounds were footsteps coming quickly through the center hall and‘Ä%0*†(†(∞

starting up the stairs, footsteps too quick and light to be

Archie’s.  Mom was headed back upstairs.
     The last thing I saw, before I closed and locked the bathroom

door, was Claire quickly closing her bedroom door.  From inside the

bathroom, just a wall away from the master bedroom, I heard Mom

enter that chamber and slam that door behind her, too.
     I busied myself with showering and brushing my teeth and blow©

drying my hair.  Oddly, unlike most school days, nobody banged on

the door, trying to rush me along in order to take a turn in the

only bathroom on the second floor of our three bedroom colonial.
     When I was all through with my morning ‘toilet’, as they used

to say in olden days, I poked my head out of the bathroom,

ascertained that the coast was clear and scooted down the hall and

into my bedroom  to get dressed.  Then I walked quietly downstairs

and back to the kitchen, where I encounterd Claire for the second

time.  She pointed toward the sunroom.  Looking through the glass

of the still©closed door, I saw Archie sitting by himself on the

sofa, turned slightly to the right, so that his face wasn’t visible

from where Claire and I stood.  I went to the refrigerator and

looked for the brown bag with my lunch in it.
    “No lunches,” Claire declared quietly.
    “Guess we’re buying today, huh?” I responded.
    “Yeh, guess so,” she said.  “Mom’s already gone.  She must have

forgot to make them.”
     “Think we ought to say goodbye to Dad?” she inquired.‘Ä%0*†(†(∞

‘å     I thought about that for a second. “Nope. I think we better

leave him alone.  You got lunch money, Sis?”
     “I’m okay,” she said.  “Thanks.”
      We shouldered our backpacks and headed for the front door.
I don’t know what Claire’s thoughts were.  But I was thinking,

“This is gonna be a long year.”


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