Oddly, though, within a year or two of marriage to Gloria, Dad took on this disconcerting habit of assigning all kinds of imposing chores to me, typically without any advance notice. Almost always when I was just about out the door to explore the world and to create my own life as a teenager.
Case in point. Dad and Gloria built a summer house in Shinnecock Hills in 1973. It was a prefab Lindal homemade of cedar planks looking more like a Hunter Mountain ski chalet than a tumbledown wood-shingled cottage with white shutters. No Hamptons-style lawn either; the grounds were entangled with bittersweet vines, nasty and thorny.
On one of our very first weekends there, the lot was still somewhat of a construction site. I had invited one of my friends over, Dee Dee, to celebrate the move-in by spending the night. After breakfast the next morning, as we were both getting ready to go to the beach, Dad came over to ask — I mean, insist — that we take two shovels “as strong men” and plough down a huge pile of sand left behind by the excavation of the foundation from the past Spring, when the house was built.
“Huh, what?” I said, looking at the 15 foot high pile. It was the first weekend of summer and Dee Dee and I were both anxious to go see our seasonal friends after a long school year of drudgery.
“Gloria wants you to do it!” he snapped. Of course, Gloria and Rosemary never had anything to do with such spontaneous insanity.
Did I mention that Dee Dee and I thought we were on our way to the beach?