My Shrinking Dadby Shrinkingman
(maybe an alternate view of the ISM story?)
My name is Paul Carey and I'm in my senior year of college. Someone asked me about my Dad; they heard a rumor that he was the famous Shrinking Man that served to inspire a book and movie. Well, he was, and the strange events that happened well over a decade ago may be well known to you. But you didn't hear about my part in it.
That's because my mom didn't want them to include me in the book or movie. She kinda wanted to protect my privacy. It was bad enough that I lost my Dad when I was only 10 or 11 years old. But she didn't want the world to see her son put into the story as well.
It was in early 1991 that my mom, Louise, and my Dad, Scott Carey, borrowed a boat lent to them by my uncle Charlie. My Dad got exposed to a strange mist while on it...and a few weeks later he must have gotten exposed to some pesticide. Somehow those two things reacted and he started to shrink.
I was just shy of 11 years old back then and it was shocking to hear that my Dad was shrinking. It didn't really sink it till he started dipping below 5 feet tall (I was, oh, maybe 4'9" at the time). I knew he was seeing doctors and scientists and trying to get the shrinking to stop, but nothing worked.
He was probably about 6 feet tall to begin with but it almost seemed like he was losing one inch per week. I know he was only about half a foot taller than I was that New Year's when we visited my grandma. By mid February he and I could see eye to eye--literally. In fact he tried to wear some of my clothes but while we were the same height, our body proportions were different so my pants and shirts seemed slightly baggy on him.
We had joint doctor's visits then and they measured and weighed us. Me: 57 inches, 102 pounds. Dad: 57 inches, 91 pounds. Wow. Only a 10 pound difference but somehow my clothes still seemed baggy on him. Some people said we almost looked like twins! But that would soon change. I would soon start to look like his "big brother".
By Easter it was school vacation for me. Dad was down to 4 feet even, and all of 57 pounds. He'd lost his job by then and money was tight but we still found time for a vacation, even if it was just visiting relatives in Connecticut. He could barely reach the pedals of the car (sitting on some cushions); but one time when he almost lost control of the car, he agreed to let Mom drive.
On Memorial Day weekend, when Dad was 3 foot 6 and 36 pounds, we went to a lake and used a cabin that belonged to someone in Mom's family. I remember Dad being about as tall as my chest, and people may have thought he was 5 or 6 years old. We rowed a boat on the water, me and Dad, though it was important that I was there because Dad was so weak. Even though I was an 11 year old pipsqueak, I was a torrent of power compared to him.
And one night while Mom and I were back in the cabin he snuck out and started up the car. We'd had special pedals put in for him so he was just barely able to drive. Had no idea where he was going. Maybe he just wanted to be alone. As it turned out, he got a flat tire.
He told us later that he tried to fix it but didn't have the strength to get the lug nuts off. So he started walking back and that's when he was spotted by some teenage boys. (This part Dad didn't tell me; he told Mom, though, and she told me later.) They wondered why such a little kid was out so late on a hot near-summer night. Then they got a close look at him and saw he was that "shrinking guy" they'd seen on TV.
I can only imagine what horror my Dad had to deal with. It would be like me having to deal with some 10 foot tall toughs. After assaulting him verbally, they did the same physically; kicking him with their huge sneakers till he ran away, crying, finally breaking free from them. Eventually he got back to the cabin. He told me that the car had broken down but waited till I was asleep to tell my Ma about the rest.
Well, some 6 weeks later it was Father's Day weekend and my dear old Dad was all of 36 inches and 23 pounds. I'd gone for a walk as my Dad moped around the living room, in a world twice its normal size.
Now, in the movie version of my dad's story, there was a scene where my Dad fretted about the media being perched outside as my Mom was on the phone, cancelling our phone service because there were simply too many people contacting us. It showed my dad losing his cool and pounding his tiny hands on the table, and making my Dad cry. He realized he did the wrong thing and went over to my Mom and comforted her.
Well, that's what was in the movie. In real life, there was no media outside and my Mom wasn't cancelling the phone, she was trying to calm down my Dad, who had gotten really despondent. "This is great," I heard him say sarcastically. "This book, this book I'm writing is gonna be a hell of a best seller when it comes out--only thing is I won't be around by the time it does!"
"Honey, it'll be OK; they're still working on the--"
"They're working, but for what? Look at me, Louise--see how funny I am? A child that looks like a man. C'mon, look at me. LOOK AT ME!"
My Dad pounded his tiny hands on the coffee table and looked up at her. Yours truly picked that time to enter the room and--well, I saw my little daddy down there and I couldn't resist.
Before my Dad knew what was happening, a 58 inch tall (I grew an inch) giant was picking him up, my hands under his armpits and lifting him up like he was a silly little four year old. He started yelling at me and I could feel his tiny sneakers kick back at me. "Put me down, Paul!"
I started laughing and carried him away. "Bedtime, young man!," I giggled. My mom went over to me and tried to free my Dad from the tight clutches of my arms.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, but my goofy little kid brain was kinda reacting to all the stress in the house and when I saw my Dad put his tiny hands on that table, well, I almost did see him as my "new 4 year old brother". Not too long before, he had been a giant towering over me. Now, I looked down and saw his scrawny arms and hands; his adult-looking face on a head that was much smaller than mind; those toddler-sized sneakers far below. My dad was a little boy! Now big brother was here to--
"Give him to me!," my Mom demanded, and I relented. My father, the famous Scott Carey, looked up at me in horror. "I'm still your father, dammit!," I heard him yell.
He was still my father but he was barely taller than my belly button. I realized how stupid I'd been and I apologized. I knew my Dad had it very tough...and it would get a lot worse.
My dad was simply the unfortunate victim of utter chance; how likely was it that his body chemistry was just the right type to be affected by the random combination of radioactive mist and bug spray? The fateful combination of substances that caused him to shrink, with no interruption whatsoever.
It wasn't some contagious disease--my mother and myself couldn't "catch it" from him. My mother's height stayed the same; I grew a few inches, as I was indeed a growing boy, but during that time my Dad got so much smaller and weaker. It might have taken me a couple years to grow half a foot taller, but my father shrank that same amount in a month and a half. It got really noticeable.
Every day he was a little bit smaller; from day to day he found himself adjusting to it all. Being able to reach something and then not being able to. Even though the amount he shrank per day was a fraction of an inch, my mother and I seemed to notice it and in no time at all my father had slipped from toddler size to infant size.
All the while I tried to help. Reaching things on high shelves, carrying heavy things; helping my Dad into the tub; opening the car door so my dad could get inside and sit in a baby seat. Now how weird was that? An 11 year old whose dad sat in the wee kiddie seat in the car, as seat belts were far too loose on him.
And of course I was there to love him and have fun with him (whatever fun one could have in that situation). Bringing him in for a swim in my uncle Charlie's pool and holding my Dad to make sure he didn't drown in the SHALLOW end!
He was 2 foot 4 by Labor Day, and a foot and a half tall by Veteran's Day. On Christmas, my dad stood exactly one foot tall. One sixth his previous height, and slightly less than one pound in weight. A few weeks later, when he'd moved to a dollhouse, he turned up missing one day and we suspected he had been attacked by a cat that had somehow gotten into the house.
Mom and I looked all around, not suspecting that he was in the cellar. I may have gone into the cellar a couple times myself but maybe he was asleep somewhere--or too tiny for me to notice.
Then one day, just as my mom and I were getting ready to move, I went downstairs to grab some stuff I'd placed there awhile back. I don't know, a shoebox of baseball cards or something.
Instinct made me go over to a basement window. There I saw a spider that was seemingly struggling with another creature. I could swear I saw a pin under it, and--honest to God--the pin was connected to a very tiny human arm.
Suddenly the pin rolled away and I could see a tiny human form scrambling after it--it was my father, Scott Carey, barely less than an inch tall! He looked up and saw me; I looked down and nodded, then carefully took my thumb and squashed the spider.
My dad sighed in relief. I extended my hand out and he climbed aboard and I took him upstairs to see my mother.
The reunion was short lived. Mere minutes later we could see my father shrink away before our eyes. We'd placed him on top of a coaster in the kitchen. As he got down to maybe an eighth of an inch tall, a small gust of wind carried him away. We ran over to the kitchen window in time to see his dwindling form pass through the tiny latticed screen. We knew he was somewhere off in the outside world, a tiny fraction of an inch tall.
Well, that was what really happened. Now, I know I inherited some of his DNA and to be frank, I try to steer clear of strange mists or pesticides, should the same thing possibly happen to me.
My mom later remarried and we lost her to cancer last year. There is no gravesite for my father; the only thing remaining is that book and film, which is not necessarily accurate.
To quote a longtime radio journalist, "And now you know...the rest of the story!"