I was watching a “City Confidential” episode during lunch today. The program features famous murder trials. In this particular episode, a son killed two small town Minnesota bankers because his dad told him to. Nothing personal, he just wanted to please his dad.
When interviewed, the boy’s mom said something that resonated… with me. I don’t know if anyone else experienced resonation. She said, “Boys will do anything to please their fathers. Not their mothers. Mothers don’t matter.”
Wow, whatta quote. Uh, she might’ve said, “don’t count” instead of “don’t matter.” But, it’s close to a quote. A quote I don’t agree with, but can sure see where she’s coming from.
Without question, I tried much harder to please Faris than Elsie. Reason being, Mom was so much easier to please. If I managed to go a whole day without her wanting to spank me, she was pleased. With seven kids running around, that woman spent many a day unpleased. Dennis and I were “a spanking” waiting to happen.
From left: Larry, Susan (and doll) Dad with Mark, Mom with Jill, Lynda, Dennis (with jaw breaker) Big Al taking picture. That's a joke.
But, Dad? We seldom gave the man cause to spank us. I believe he only spanked me three times. I can only recall “the why” of one of ‘em. He spanked me for lying to Mom, when I didn’t… technically. When I yelled to Mom that I “wasn’t” wrestling with the neighborhood kids, I really wasn’t. I had been when she yelled, but I had stopped wrestling long enough to tell her I wasn’t. So, technically, I was telling the truth. And, I would’ve explained it to her had Dad not been watching the melee.
Dad didn’t care too much for technicalities. I didn’t even bring it up to him. Just took the spanking like a… well, like a crybaby. At no time did any of us kids need Dad to spank us. If he said he was disappointed in us, that’s all it took. I wish I’d been brave enough to tell him that. “Dad, no need for the belt. You had me at ‘disappointed’.”
Now, Mom really needed to spank us… bless her heart. Dad, never. It was partly our fear of him and partly our desire to please him. A touchdown in the big game, a game winning homerun, a four-year scholarship… something like that. Never came close.
Fortunately, Dad never asked me to kill anybody. Never even asked me to hit, taunt or write a mean letter to anyone. Quite the opposite. The man taught me respect by being respectful. I never remember Dad instructing us to say “Yes, ma’am” or “Yes, sir” or “Thank you.” We just always did. We apparently caught onto the notion that it was what Dad expected. He was always polite to other people. Even to people younger than he was. Even to mean people like that one lady at the library. “Thank you, ma’am,” my dad would tell her.
Odd, but Dad never cared if we said “Yes, sir” to him. I think it made him feel less close to us. We never said, “Yeah,” or “nah” or “Not me!” We’d say “Yes” and “no” and “I’m sorry.” Twice I got blamed for stuff I didn’t do, ‘cause I didn’t want to talk back to Dad. I just said, “I’m sorry, Daddy.” Dad was okay with that. Had I tried to explain that Dennis was the one who did it, well, it wouldn’t have come out good for either of us… I imagine. Like I say, I never questioned the man.
Dad said he questioned his Dad only once. It was the only time Grandpa Hayter ever punished him. Ever had to. Dad was helping Grandpa sharecrop during the Great Depression. In Oklahoma, no less. I don’t know what it was that Grandpa told Faris to do, but Dad didn’t think it made all that much sense, so he said, “Well, that’s silly, Dad.”
Grandpa walked over to my dad and boxed his ears. Dad had to explain to me what that meant. It’s when someone puts his hands over your ears and rubs them real hard. Hurts like the dickens. Only wrestlers are supposed to do it. Using a fake rub, I hope.
After boxing his ears, Grandpa said, “Never call a man a fool, son.” I can imagine the temptation to say, “I didn’t call you a fool. I just said that what you were asking me to do was silly.” Dad never said anything except “I’m sorry.” And, he never again questioned my grandpa. (Grandpa was one of the sweetest men I ever knew. He obviously let his grandkids get away with more than he did his son. Isn’t that the way of it?)
All said and done, I have to say that I was not at all pleased with my relationship with Dad. I don’t think he was, either. We were plenty respectful of him, just not close. We’d tell Mom stuff we’d never tell Dad. We’d even ask Mom to ask Dad if we could do stuff or borrow his tools. It was just easier that way.
If I could go back, I’d change it all. Try to, anyway. I’d tell him the no-need-for-the-belt comment just to see how he would respond. Might not have lived past it, but I should have chanced it. I would’ve asked him more about himself, and I would have told him so much sooner how proud I was of him. My dad could do anything… except have a close relationship with his kids. I wish I had made that my mission. I think it would’ve pleased him.
By the way, I mentioned awhile back that I was going to write a book about my dad. I’m still working on it. I plan to post a chapter a week on our website www.fromtherooftop.net. It may not be there by the time this gets out, but it’ll show up soon. When it gets posted, just click on the picture of the typewriter. Till it shows, you might want to look through some old articles in my “Mark’s column” section. Hey, you might.
Before leaving I want to say, “Happy Father’s Day!” to all you dads out there. Oh, the influence you have. A wise man once said, “It’s impossible for fathers not to set an example.” That’s true for each of us, but, at this time, it’s especially true for dads.
You can listen to Brad Meyer and Mark’s latest restaurant review by logging onto http://www.hcnonline.com/media/kebob.mp3.