My mom is Jewish, and my father is Catholic. As a child I celebrated both religions’ holidays. One Easter I woke up to find colorful eggs with my brother, who was 5 years old at the time (I was 7, and am now 16). That morning, my father was not acting himself and had us worried. During breakfast, he had yelled at my brother for what he had deemed to be inappropriate behavior at the table, and had strung his belt over the back of my brother’s chair as a warning. That should have been the first sign. As a family, we brushed the situation off, and I asked him what he wanted to do for Easter. Bluntly, he replied: “I want to teach my kids how to shoot a gun.”
My mom set her fork down and gave him a “look.” I was puzzled too, as this was the first mention of a gun or any act of shooting one. My parents raised me Jewish… I knew we were not supposed to use deadly weapons nor use these weapons as killing machines.
After eating the rest of breakfast in silence, he and I went into the garage for him to grab a beer. My mom joined us a minute later. I asked him about what he had said at breakfast. He responded, “Last year, why did you join Taekwondo? To defend yourself, there’s bad weapons out there.”
This made sense to me. I went inside to spend time with my brother and left my parents conversing in the garage. Only minutes later I heard my dad’s voice shouting through the door. Next thing I knew my mom, my brother, and I were huddled together on the small kitchen rug beneath the sink. I was on her right, my brother on her left. My dog, who favored my dad, stood in between us and him with her teeth bared. My father had brought two loaded guns into the house.
He told my mom that for the “look” that she had given him that morning, she deserved to die, because we were Democrats we deserved to die, and because we were Jews we deserved to die. With my mom’s arms wrapped around us, she braced herself against my father. My mom stuck out her chest and turned her head towards my brother, her face clenching with raw fear as my father pointed a gun at her chest.
While he never fired those guns in the house, he spent the rest of the day shooting at his beer cans in the garage, and I spent the night wondering why my dad wouldn’t play Monopoly with me.