Squawk Radio

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Christina Dodd Tattles on her Father-in-Law

As my husband always says, “You can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your family.”

Ain’t it the truth.

But as with all women, relationships, both romantic and familial, fascinate me, and I keep writing stories about families that lose each other, then fight to get back together. TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS (now on the shelves) is the start of a brand-new contemporary series about five half-brothers, sons of one father and five different mothers, who have to solve the mystery of their father’s disappearance and his missing fortune. Oh, and it’s a hot romance, too, very fun to write.

How do I think of different stories with such a similar theme? My dears, think of your own family, about how many people there are, how diverse they are, and the famous — or infamous — anecdotes that are told about them. I don’t have to make up stories. I just recycle the ones I know.

To celebrate the publication of TROUBLE IN HIGH HEELS, here is the most notorious legend of my husband’s family, a tale that will live forever in infamy.

My father-in-law was in the Navy in WWII, worked hard all his life, and is a respectable, retired, eighty-three year old citizen. He plays golf five times a week, bowls once a week, reads voraciously, and is, to put it politely, a character. Everyone in the family adores him.

Why am I presenting his credentials? Because, once upon a time, he was a dumb kid. I know this because I knew his mother, and like every mother, she used to tell stories about him. Or should I say — on him.

Heh, heh.

When Tom (or Tommy, as Grandma called him) was about fourteen, it was the depths of the Depression, they lived in a very small town in the mountains in Idaho, and he and his younger brother Bob and their older cousin were desperate to make some money to help out the family. So they contracted with the cemetery to dig a grave. The ground was former river bed, rocks and sand packed as hard as cement, and the boys dug and sweated and only managed to get a couple of inches into the earth. So their older cousin looked in the caretaker’s shed, came out, and said, “There’s dynamite in there. I know how to use dynamite.”

(Christina pauses to allow every mother, every father, every former kid experience the full horror of this statement … and mentally fill in the details.)
Of course Grandma didn’t see the actual explosion — in fact, in this very small town, she didn’t even hear about the event for years, which speaks volumes for how much she was loved — but as she told my husband and me, “I can just imagine the bodies flying out of the graves.” I guess it wasn’t quite that bad, but the resulting hole was so big and round the undertaker had to build a wooden frame so they could lower the coffin into the ground. Not surprisingly, my father-in-law said, “They never offered us the job again.”

The photo is my father-in-law showing us the exact grave he "dug" -- and please note the size of the tree. He claims the explosion "aerated the roots."

Sure, Tom. Pull the other one.

C'mon, now's your chance. What is the most infamous story in your family? What horrible thing did your husband/daughter/you do that makes strong men blench and women cover their eyes? It can't be as bad as blowing up a graveyard ... can it? Can it???
Christina Dodd, 1:57 AM