Give Her Your Shoulder, Not Your Mouth
- Tuesday, March 23, 2004
A boat dealer told me it would take $150 to fix the engine's broken seal, so I returned it to the owner who had promised me I could have my money back if I didn't like it.
When I left home early that morning, I had agreed to be back by eleven o'clock so Norma could go shopping. Retrieving my money took longer than I had planned, and I arrived home an hour-and-a-half late. In the meantime, Norma had decided to take our minimotor home to the grocery store. Trying to turn it around in the driveway, she accidentally drove too close to the house and sheared off a section of the roof. As the roof fell, it put a huge dent in the front of the motor home.
When I pulled into the drive at 12:30, I saw part of the roof lying in the driveway next to the dented motor home. I just laughed out loud, more out of desperation than humor.
I wanted to say to my wife, "Oh, no, $500 at least to fix this. Where did you get your driver's license, at a garage sale?" I wanted to lecture her angrily and then ignore her for a while.
For once, I remembered what I was supposed to do. I told myself, "Keep your mouth shut and put your arms around her. Just hold her. Don't say anything, okay?"
However, my basic human nature told me, "Give her a lecture. Let our anger out. Express it."
My mind finally triumphed over my will. I put my arms around her and said gently, "You must feel terrible, don't you?" Even though war was still raging inside me. We went into the house and sat on the couch. I let her talk her feelings out.
I held her, and after a couple of minutes I felt good because I could feel the tenderness begin to flow from me. Soon I was fine, and she was encouraged. Minutes later, a carpenter friend drove up who had already heard about the accident. We had the roof patched and painted in two hours.
It felt good not to be angry for once. I hadn't offended my wife, shouted at the kids, or diminished any of the beauty of our relationship. I could have reverted to my old excuse, "Well, I just can't keep from blowing up." Instead, I had one of those encouraging victories.
My new-found sensitivity has been tested on several occasions. Once I almost blew it on a fishing trip. I normally become completely oblivious to my family and the world when I'm near a stream, totally "submerging" myself in the exhilarating environment of fishing: the smell of the air, the tension when a fish strikes, the sound of the stream. Oops! Back to the story.
When we pulled up in our minimotor home beside a beautiful steam, my heart was pounding. I could hardly wait to get my reel rigged up. First, I rigged the kids' reels and told them, "Look, if you get tangled up, you're on your own." (I used to get so frustrated when I was trying to fish and they were yelling, "Dad, I can't get this reeled in." I wanted to devote my entire energy to fishing on my own.)
I found the perfect spot: a nice deep hole in a pool in front of a big boulder. I threw in the lure and let it wander naturally to the bottom of the pool. It swirled around and wham! I got my first trout! I had nearly caught the limit when Greg came running up. I was sure he was about to jump into the stream and spook the fish. I was already upset and angry from his interruption when he said, "Dad! Kari broke her leg!"
Kari broke her leg! What a time to break her leg! I couldn't believe she would do this to me. It was hard for me to leave, but I gave the line to Greg and said, "Don't break it. Don't get it tangled up. Just keep it in there." I ran in Kari's direction, avoiding the big pool. After all, I didn't want to scare the fish.
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