The first in a series of e-mails from readers inspired by our Father’s Day symposium on Friday’s site:
Sometimes the best thing a father can do is say nothing. During my early teens, I had to accompany my father one Saturday to buy parts to fix a broken water pump. Dad and I were battling all day (mostly about an adolescent’s laziness in helping him fix the pump) and so I sulked in the pickup while he was buying the parts. As he usually did, Dad got to blabbing with the store owner, and I became restless, so I decided to go for a walk. It was only after I locked my door and slammed it shut that I saw the keys swinging in the ignition. Knowing this stunt would have been the icing to our combative day, I tried every trick I knew to get the door open before he came out, including going next door to the job service agency and borrowing a coat hanger. I struggled for another 15 minutes with the door as Dad (thankfully) continued gabbing with the store clerk. After giving up on the passenger side door, I walked around to try the other door—only to find the window rolled down.
I ditched the coat hanger, got back in the truck, and thanked God that Dad hadn’t seen that performance. He came out shortly thereafter, got in the truck, and as we drove off looked at me like he wanted to say something. At that point I knew he had seen the whole thing, but resisted a prime chance to jab me good. It’s a good story today, but when you’re a self-conscious 14-year old boy, embarrassment can be sometimes tough to take–especially if you’re trying to show Dad you can be capable. He could have made a joke, but didn’t. He’s always had the ability to know when to speak up and when not to. That’s probably why he’s been married for 47 years and has three children who love him deeply.