Archive for January, 2008

Who’s The Fool?
January 21, 2008

(Note: This story was written and submitted for publication in the Chicken Soup For The Soul’s ‘Life’s Most Embarrassing Moments’)

 

I used to live in a small town named, Howe, Texas. Just about 50 miles due north of Dallas. I worked as a commercial construction project manager for a company in the nearby town of Sherman.

It was one very cold December morning, just before dawn that I pulled into the corner Exxon station to fill up my pickup truck’s tank with gasoline. I was barely awake when I got out and placed the gas dispenser into the tank.

I’ve always been a bit impatient and decided to go ahead and go inside, where it was warm, while the pump continued to fill the tank.

After the tank was filled and the pump had clicked off, I paid for the gas and went back out and got into my truck. As I started to pull away, the engine of my truck died. I immediately wrote it off as being the very tight clutch on my standard transmission.

There were a half a dozen or more teenagers standing there laughing at me. I thought that a bit odd and rude but more or less smiled back at them, restarted my truck, accelerated a little more than normal and drove away.

As I drove down the road, I started defending my tight clutch on my truck as I was dealing with just having been laughed at by a group of teenagers. I went down the list of reasoning why they were so amused at my truck dying. I basically blew it off to foolish kids in a small town who were somewhat cruel to an older guy in an old truck that didn’t run too well.

I proceeded onto the freeway and drove about 3-4 more miles, headed for my job in Sherman. Much to my surprise, a car pulls alongside me and and the man inside begins to feverishly honk his horn at me. I gave him a look that basically said, “Now what does this idiot want?”

He was pointing at the side of my truck and at that moment, I looked into my outside rear-view mirror and notice the gas hose and dispenser still in my tank as if I were still pumping gas into my truck. Suddenly I realized who had been the fool and the idiot. I stopped and took the dispenser out of my gas tank, drove back to the gas station and carried it inside.

A dozen or more farmers were waiting inside, each one hysterically laughing at me as I handed the hose and dispenser to the clerk and said, “I think this belongs to you.” She was quite gracious and said asked for my name and address so they could send me the $50 bill to repair their gas pump. All that was left for me to do was to join in the hysterical laughter of the farmers and teenagers.

My Dad Won!
January 21, 2008

Its a funny thing that an inexpensive watch from the local Wal-Mart lets me know that my dad is still here.

I was born in Sherman, Texas, and raised here during the tumultuous 60s and 70s. My dad started working for the Sherman post office the year I was born. It was the only job I ever knew him to have, all of my life. My dad was pretty strict on the three of us kids as we grew up.

He ‘made’ us go to church. He let us know what behavior he’d tolerate and what he wouldn’t tolerate. I was the last of three children all born just three years apart (bless my mother’s heart). Being just 354 days difference between me and my older sister, you could easily figure out that I wasn’t exactly ‘planned’ to arrive when I was born.

Being as one who was born outside of the plan, I found my courage to be a bit of a rebel and even stand up against much of what my dad wanted me to do. Especially in my teenage years. I waged verbal and willful war with my dad.

Sometimes I wonder if it was insanity on my part or pure courage to challenge him regarding his strict discipline and my determined spirit to not want to play along. Nonetheless, even though he always got his way, it was not without a challenge from my smart mouth and stubborn attitude.

My dad did something, when I was a sophomore at Sherman High School, that more or less blew my mind. I had just received my driver’s license and my dad sat down and had a talk with me. He told me, “Mike, you’re 6’3” tall, you have your driver’s license and I want you to know that I’m not going to hassle you about going to church, about coming in whenever you want and about much of your behavior. I can’t handle you anymore.’”

I interpreted that to be my ticket to freedom. I was free to grow my hair as long as I wanted and hang out with whoever I chose. I could come and go as I pleased and do whatever mischief I decided was fun and exciting to do.

The funny thing is, that very act of my dad ‘letting me go’ was the biggest turnaround in my life. I suddenly had an epiphany that in a few years, I was going to be 18 years old and out on my own. I straightened up, started attending church on my own and later became a minister for 15 years at the very church that my dad had forced me attend.

My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 90s. He rapidly got to the place where he couldn’t function in any normal fashion and ended up in a series of nursing homes in the area. It was when he was in a facility at Whitewright, Texas, that my sister and I began conducting a weekly inspirational chapel service for all of the residents and patients there.

One day, I was there with him alone and he asked me to buy him a new watch after we had lunch. As was usual in our relationship, I challenged him and asked him, “Dad, why do you need a watch? There are clocks everywhere around here and you aren’t going anywhere. Why, for heavens sakes, do you need a watch?” His only answer was, “Mike, you never know why I might need a watch.”

As simple as that conversation may have seemed at the time, it has taken on a significance that I would have never dreamed of.

I took him from the nursing home that day and we went to have lunch at one of his favorite places, ‘The Rib’, east of Denison, Texas. After we finished eating, I drove him to the Denison Wal-Mart and bought my dad a new watch. He insisted that he go in and pick it out.

It has been over 5 years now since my dad transitioned from this life to the next one. On November 7, 2002, I was taking an insurance class at my church when my secretary called me into the hallway. She informed me that my dad had just died. It was no surprise even though you can never be prepared for those words. We buried his mortal remains on Monday, November 11th.

Pat Dannel, of Dannel Funeral Home in Sherman, allowed me into the room with dad’s earthly shell the day after his death. She gave me an envelope that possessed the few personal belongings that he had at his death. The watch I bought him was among those possessions.

For whatever reason, dad had the alarm on the watch to go off at 3 p.m. everyday. I put it in a drawer in my office at my home. Till this very day, over 5 years after his death, that alarm still goes off every afternoon. While other battery operated watches I own, have had their batteries replaced 2-3 times, that battery has never run down or been replaced.

I am grateful to him for having the wisdom to do what he did in letting me go as a teenager. That very act probably saved my life and allowed me to mature into who I am today. Everyday at 3 p.m., I hear that alarm and know that my dad is still with me. In my heart and mind, I simply smile and say to him, “Yes, I know you’re still here. And yes, dad, you won.” I know now why I bought him THAT watch, that day.