To be fair, my dad didn’t often ‘lose it’. As a traveling salesman (road warrior is what the hotel industry calls them), he wasn’t home much during the week, and his second job took him away for much of the weekend when he was home. Our mom was the disciplinarian, a role she perfected teaching elementary school for over 25 years. I used to be just like my mom – quick to anger and quick to react in anger. For those who want to know, I cured myself of that the day I picked up a cherished one-of-a-kind item in the heat of an argument and smashed it onto the floor, breaking it to smithereens. Over the course of years, I began to understand the emotion of anger and what was the emotion beneath it when the feeling triggered. Okay, so sometimes I miss the days of ranting and raving wildly, thinking how good it would feel to just let it all out… but the thought of wasting what little energy this aging body has on something that has no purpose and offers no solution always wins.
Like I said, my dad didn’t often ‘lose it’. He seldom got angry – or at least seldom showed his anger. I can only vaguely remember my parents arguing, but I do remember that mom was the aggressor, and understand now that he just let her spew and didn’t add fuel to the fire by engaging it.
Things we did as kids that were really stupid, however, sometimes got the better of him. Things we did that were dangerous to others could rile him. Things that took money to ‘solve’ were his pet peeve! (And yes, Brad, that includes the time I let the car engine seize up because I didn’t understand that the add oil light on the dashboard meant NOW!)
For some reason I recently thought about an incident from when I was a child (I was 12 or 13) and, in retrospect, realize he should have lost his cool over it, but didn’t.
You see, my parents both worked hard in order to provide for our family. We were lucky enough to have a nice home, good meals and name brand clothing. My parents always invested in good furniture that would last a while. It was the same with their clothing. My dad, especially because of his career, always invested in nice suits, shirts, ties and shoes. He only owned three pair of dress shoes, but they were all Floresheim shoes. He had two pair in black and one in brown. He polished them weekly – all three pair – whether he’d worn them or not. One day, a Saturday when he was away at his part-time job (he gave flying lessons to future pilots of small-engine aircrafts), I decided to surprise him and polish his shoes for him. The shoes, and the polishing kit, were always kept in the coat closet near the front door. And so, I got out the shoes and the kit, sat down and took out all of the laces from the shoes, and proceeded to polish them. When I was finished, I put the laces back in the shoes and put them back in the closet with the polishing kit.
I was so proud and so excited for him to see them! All I could think about was the extra time he could spend with us as a family because that weekly chore was done! When he finally got home (it felt like it was HOURS later!), I casually walked out of my bedroom and watched him head for the coat closet to put away his jacket. As he hung it up, I walked over to him, hugged him and told him to look down and see what I had done for him…
He looked and stood perfectly still – his face not changing – for at least a minute. Finally, he looked at me and said one word… “Why?” I explained my motivation and he paused for a moment, then said, “Thank you. But please don’t ever do that again.” With that, he closed the closet door and went about his business. Me? I went to my room and cried because he wasn’t as happy as I expected him to be!
After dinner, when I had done my share of chores to clear the dinner table, my dad went to the coat closet, pulled out his three pair of shoes and the polishing kit, and went back to the table. I lingered at the other end of the kitchen, watching him. He proceeded to get out small circles of paste wax and a cloth in preparation. I was intrigued, because he was set upon polishing his shoes in a very different way than I had..
You see, I had successfully polished his shoes to perfection… using liquid polish!
Nothing more was ever said on the subject. I retreated to my room, and never learned how long it took him to undo what I had done and return his shoes to their shiny splendor. If he were alive today, I’d definitely ask him if he remembered this incident. And I’d definitely thank him for not losing it!