With respect parents can parent and teachers can teach so children learn and communities thrive.
My Daddy was “a grizzly bear with a teddy bear’s heart.” A stocky, southern gentleman, who was feared and revered by all who knew him. Quick tempered, but just as quick to make amends. He made snap decisions and rarely questioned his initial opinion. A decisive man of few words.
Daddy answered the telephone with a short, gruff, “Alright!” Not “hello” or “good day,” but “Alright” in a tone of voice that frightened even the most self-confident caller. I didn’t question his greeting until my middle school years when friends refused to call our house. The time had come to confront Daddy. My future was at stake! To tell you the truth, at this stage in my life I wanted to scream, “What’s wrong with you? My friends think you’re crazy!”
One of Daddy’s favorite pastimes was jigsaw puzzles. We kept a card table in the corner of the den with the puzzle of the week in progress. It was amazing to watch him dig through a box of a thousand tiny cardboard cutouts to find every straight edge. When the frame was completed, he separated the remaining pieces by color and began the search for the next piece. No wonder he had little patience away from the table. He used it all up with those jigsaw pieces.
When I needed to talk to Daddy, the puzzle table was the perfect place, because I could avoid looking him in the eye. He never asked me to sit down if I walked through the room, but I knew I was welcome at his table.
One Saturday afternoon I took a deep breath and sat down to talk. I picked up a jigsaw piece and proceeded to look for its placement. After a few moments of silence, Daddy said, “Do you have something on your mind that you need to get out of your mouth?” (That was Daddy’s way of asking if I needed to talk. Remember the grizzly bear facade?)
”Well, yes, sir,” I replied.
“My friends want to know why you answer the phone the way you do. They’re scared to call. They think it’s just plain weird, and Daddy, so do I.”
“Weird, huh?” retorted Daddy cocking his head to one side, squinting his eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses.
Nodding, I replied, “It makes you sound like you’re crazy.”
Daddy roared with a belly laugh, “I guess I’d really upset your friends if I finished what I was thinking.”
“So, what in the world are you thinking?” I asked impatiently.
Leaning in to make his point, he growled, “Alright, hurry up and get this over with! But, I learned a long time ago not to say what I’m thinking, because that would be bad manners.”
My, O, my, Daddy did it again. He had an amazing ability to turn any situation around to make himself right. How could I disagree with his assessment of his telephone greeting? I couldn’t.
And to think, Daddy gave Mother credit for teaching us manners!
He taught us a lot more than we ever gave him credit.
I just shook my head as I stood to leave the table. And as always, he turned his cheek for a kiss.
A few short years later, Daddy passed on to heaven at the age of 52. I’d give anything to hear him say “Alright” when I call. I’d love to sit at his jigsaw puzzle table today to ask a serious question or two.
Dads, if you’re having trouble communicating with your teenagers, put the cell phone down and start a jigsaw puzzle.
Happy Father’s Day to all!