Last week, on my way home from a client site I checked in with maddmom and heard the words no one wants to hear after a tough week: "We have a little problem here." These are the words that, when spoken to you by the female that you are married to, indicate that you are, in fact, a Dad and will have to actually "do something."
Like I said, no one wants to hear those words.
The key words in the statement, "We have a little problem here." are "We" indicating "you" and "problem" meaning just about anything from a leaky sink to a full-fledged house fire to one of your sons drawing a penis on the chalkboard by the phone. The other words, "little" meaning "small" or "incredibly large" and "have" meaning "happening right now, I'm calling from an inflatable boat in the attic" or " I took care of it, I just wanted you to know it was all your fault" usually get lost in the ether as as soon as you hear the word "We" come out of your lovely wifes head you will start thinking of everything you were supposed to tighten or nail down before you left for work and at the same time trying to remember each of your kids teachers names so you don't sound like an idiot in front of Sister when you go in for the meeting.
I was very lucky this time. The sentence translated to: "Someone drew a penis on the chalkboard by the phone. No one will own up to it. Hayden blamed Gabe who blamed the Beast who said, "what's a penis?" and when informed denied it, then all three of them blamed Skippy who isn't even two yet and can't draw anything much less a full-fledged dick, balls and all." So, like I said, I dodged a bullet. Maddmom, probably a little tired out, put the onus on the children to 'fess up, telling them that it was between them and God, and as the denials kept coming switched into pick your battles mode and moved on.
I stayed out of it.
Sunday, Gabe and I went to Wal-Mart to get paint for his pinewood derby car. Fun was had by all. We went to the self check-out lane to keep away from the after-church grocery crush, slid the ten-spot into the machine, Gabe grabs the change out of the change tray, I grab the dollars out of the bill tray.... and notice that the machine gave me back nine twenties.
What do you do there? My receipt was correct, I got my $4.52 back, but with an additional $180 on top. Did I win a prize? Was Wal-Mart paying me back for all of the cheap crap I had bought and thrown away over the years? I suppose none of that mattered, they had me on tape, I had to return the money (that's humor there folks). So I went to the desk, showed the woman my receipt, took my proper change and left. On the way out, Gabe asked how much money I gave back and I told him. He said, "Well, you have to be honest." I said he was right, but maybe I should have drawn a penis on the bills before I gave them back. He said that would've been funny. We have our culprit. It's between him and God.
I've been having weirdly vivid dreams lately. Last night I had a dream that the parents of a girl I dated in college, for a total of six or seven months, were suing me for ruining her life. Evidently, after I broke up with her she went back to her old boyfriend and eventually something horrible happened, it wasn't clear what exactly it was. But it was made clear that her parents blamed me for it because I had dumped her freshman year. Now I'm forced to defend myself in court and on Greta and O'Reilly and Geraldo, not to mention that horrible screechy woman on MSNBC. I was the new Scott Peterson. Guilty, Guilty Guilty! Totally ruined my life. My whole life from High School to now was under the media microscope, everything I ever did was second guessed and deconstructed on national television.
This dream was so bad that it woke me up in a cold sweat. When I woke up I couldn't tell if I was awake or still dreaming. I was sick. So I started looking back over the decision tree that got me to this point. From deciding what college to go to to my major, jobs, marriage, houses, kids, everything.
So sitting up in the middle of the night, I realized that when I followed my gut to make a decision on my own, I make pretty good decisions. When I let someone else drive, and let them make the decisions that I should be doing on my own, I get crushed. Really. And I can say this; before 2001, I made very few decisions for myself.
Now I'm not saying that everything that I did before 2001 was dictated to me by someone else. What I mean is that I used to let events carry me along in directions that I knew were contrary to what I wanted because I thought it was easier to let that happen than to actually make the decision that I thought should be made. And I was right, it was easier to go with the flow, in the short-term anyway. It was long term that it came back to bite me in the ass. Take for example, getting married. That was a tough call. Really. But not in the way you think.
I knew I wanted to get married to maddmom. Absolutely. No question. But you put up with a lot of crap when you make a decision like that. You have people telling you that you're too young, you have people telling you you need to see other people, you lose friends who don't, for whatever personal reason, want you to get married. There are people who don't like your wife to be and there is family who thinks that if you just kept dating for a long enough time, you'd eventually break up. All of these people are trying to control your decision. It would be easier for you to just cruise along and let everything be, conflict with one person, even if it's a woman you love, is easier than conflict with virtually everyone you know. It's HARD
to make a decision like that, even when you know
in your heart it's the right decision. I made the decision, and short-term, there was lots of conflict in my life. But I was certain I was right, and I was.
I think the willingness to make those decisions is maturity. Not making decisions, or letting events carry you along until a decision is made for you, or even worse, letting external actors make your decisions is adolescence. And I can honestly say that with a few notable exceptions, before 2001 I was in adolescence. In 2001 I was let go by the company I worked for and I was forced to make decisions that I had been avoiding for years. I'm glad I have to make those decisions now, as much as they hurt. Because the pain of conflict and fear of the unknown is much, much easier than the perpetual feeling of spinning out of control you get when you rely on others or events to do your work for you.
End of sermon. Here's a Nun Joke:
Two nuns walk into a liqueur store and ask the man at the counter for a bottle of Blackberry Brandy. The clerk tells the nuns that he knows they are not suppose to drink alcohol and he cannot sell them the bottle.
One of the nuns said "It's okay. It's for the Mother Superior. You see, she's constipated." So the clerk sells them the brandy.
After locking up the store at closing time, the clerk walks down the street and sees the two nuns are falling down drunk.
The clerk says "Sisters, you lied to me. You said that was for Mother Superior's constipation."
The nun replies "It is. When she sees us, she's going to SHIT."