If you're a parent and I asked if you remembered a time when your child was treated unfairly, mocked or teased, you wouldn't have any problem reporting the details of the event. Maybe you could remember more than just one time. I think all parents have at least one small sliver of "mama bear DNA" in them and remembering those times when your child was picked on, sends a sharp pain through your chest. It's unavoidable and all of us have experienced it. But if I were to ask the same question about a time when *your parent* was treated unfairly, mocked or teased, would you be able to recall the incident without much hesitation?
If you've been a Frantic Finch reader for any length of time, you know that my dad died a few years ago and my mom is in the process of moving into a retirement community. The dream home that they built together isn't a dream to keep up and it's just too much work for her. My writing material over the next few months will be heavy discussing the process of packing, letting go, laboring over many sentimental things and all of our family's new beginnings.
As I was helping mom last weekend, she gave one of Dad's hats to me. Memories of him wearing it flooded my soul and sent electric tingles throughout my body. As I held the hat, a story about someone "being mean" to him came back to me. I hadn't thought of it in years. I mentioned it to mom but she couldn't remember.
My dad wore fedoras, but this one in particular was tweed and had all the pins he collected when we visited the British Isles. Each pin was special and chosen by him. There was an orange and blue with a red lion from Scotland, the Great Britain flag, a four part crest from Ireland and a red dragon looking pin with green background from Wales. There was even a round Save the Planet Hard Rock Cafe from London which delighted his teenage daughter. He stood in line in the rain with me to buy an overpriced burger and fries. He was getting a pin out of this if nothing else!
My father was 6' 4" and hats made him appear taller and in my opinion; more distinguished. Every weekday afternoon, I would sit beside the kitchen window and wait for him to pull in the driveway. I'd watch him extract his tall frame from his car, grab his brief case and put one of those hats on his head. I would throw open the back door next to the laundry room and I would see his focused, frowning face immediately change when he saw me. A big grin would spread across his face and he would say "Well! Hello there sugar lump!"
He would shake off the winter chill by moving his shoulders up and down while his long arms draped by his sides and his hands would ball into fists then stretch out like white bony spiders. He would make these crazy sounds - "Whooo Whooo Whooo - It's cold out there sports fans!" as he slid off his overcoat and set his hat on the hutch. He would eventually hang his hat on the hook in the laundry room but for some reason it's first stop was the hutch near the kitchen table. Mom would finish cooking and plate dinner and he would head back to their bedroom and change out of his suit.
I remember vividly one particular day, all of the pins on his hat were upside down. This was curious to me since the pins didn't have a post and circular backing where they could easily turn like wheels on a car. My dad's pins had a straight bar and a clasp that would wrap around the bar and latch like a brooch. For his pins to be upside down, it would've been deliberate.
When Dad came back into the kitchen, I showed him the hat and asked why the pins were upside down. He took his hat from me and the familiar wrinkle in his brow appeared. He studied the pins then in a moment of clarity it seemed to occur to him why they had been moved.
"Ohhh, okay - well, there's this jokester at work who thinks everything is funny." I watched as my Dad unclasped the upside down latches and re-pin them correctly. "He plays tricks on people all the time. I guess I'm the lucky one today. He's forever moving things around the office or hiding papers. Everything is a joke with him."
Seeing the puzzled look on my face, he smiled and said "It's okay. Look. Now the pins are back right side up."
Okay. So my dad wasn't exactly bullied or ridiculed but he was "picked on" and I gotta' say it pissed me off. It still bugs me today which explains why I'm writing about it! That guy in his office may have been playing around and meant no harm but he messed with Dad's personal things. There has to be some level of good home training so that people know better than to mess with others' belongings. Even as a teenager, I saw this as wrong and it bothered me that an adult seemed to get away with sophomoric behavior. It's entirely possible that this coworker was a mild annoyance to the employees and the joke really wasn't a big deal, but for a moment, I saw my father picked on like George McFly in Back the Future. I saw my Dad laughing it off, making the best of it and being tolerant of annoying behavior.
I guess everything in this world is full circle. We are children, and then we care for our parents as if they are our children. Young grows into old, and old becomes youthful again. All I know is that being mean or playing tricks or messing with other people's stuff should have boundaries. Sometimes you just gotta's say - knock it off. That's my Dad.
Seeds to Share:
Ephesians 4:2 - Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.