Friday, July 12, 2013

Lessons Learned Forever

I learned many lessons from my father, some he didn't intend to teach.

Here's an example of the latter.

He's been gone now for over thirty-four years, he died June 16, 1979, but I still occasionally refer to him as His Majesty.

Here's why.

At dinner one evening, my father, after a disagreement with my mother regarding the relative roles of men and women in a marriage, stood and declared, "A man's home is his castle, and here, I am KING!"

The fact that he extended his arms out like Christ on the Cross gave the image an amazing sense of ridiculousness.

My mother raised her arms, salaamed, and cried to the heavens, "Yes, Your Majesty!"

He may have been king of the castle, but my mother wielded the crown and scepter.

She held a job, and made more money than he did.  Rare for the 1960s.

He never knew that or his male ego would have sustained a fatal blow.  At the time I thought that he might divorce her if he found out, but after decades of contemplation finally understood that he would have lowered his head in shame and been unable to look his buddies in the eye.

My mother understood this better than I did.  She had her company make out two checks.  One to present to him.  One for her to keep in a bank account only she (and I) knew about.

He then ceremoniously presented her an allowance for the week.  Fifty dollars cash money, to feed and clothe a family of five.

Her own account supplemented that with regard to clothing me, my sister and brother.

When tax time came, she drafted a 1040 form (the tax form in the US) in pencil the way my father thought it should be, then had him sign a blank one she said she would type up at the office.  There, she figured the real taxes … complete with his signature.

She would deposit the refund into her account, and present my father with the cash for the refund he expected.

As an observant child, I saw the dynamics.

Peacocks are beautiful (and my father was a good-looking, charismatic man), but being macho meant being regarded as a fool.

My mother once asked my father for $50.00 to buy a new swing set for my baby brother.  Both my sister and I had a brand new one of our own growing up, so Mark should have a new one as well.

My father refused arguing that Deborah’s still had life left in it.

The fact that my sister's swing set was pink with frills, made no impression on my father.  Even my little sister went to bat for Mark.

No sale.

My mother used her money to buy Mark one anyway, and my father hit the ceiling when he saw it.

“I’m docking you two weeks allowance for that stunt.  Not just one.  Two!  You’ll just have to make do until it’s paid for WITH INTEREST.”

One hundred percent interest?  Really?

Mom enlisted my assistance and, while my father napped, we hid every scrap of food in the place in my closet, giving away the perishables to our neighbors who were then unemployed and close to being evicted.

The next day my father came home from work.  “What’s for supper?”

My mother, having just come home from work herself, said.  “Nothing, Roy.  There’s nothing for me to fix.”


“I don’t have an allowance to buy anything with.”

“That’s a bunch of damn hogwash,” he said.

He opened the pantry.  Nothing.  He opened the refrigerator.  Nothing.  He stormed the rest of the kitchen.  Nothing.

Mom smiled and shrugged.  “See?”

Her grin was quite wicked.

Still, he walked up to her and stuck his finger in her face.  “Oh, no.  You’re not getting away with this.  You’re not getting your allowance, and that’s final.”

She held out her hands.  “The kids have to eat.”

“Get them ready.  We’re going out.”

For seven straight nights Daddy took us out to eat.  Nice restaurants, too.  Burgers, Tex-Mex, steak, seafood.

We all had a wonderful time, and I began a lifelong love affair with scallops; fried, grilled, baked, any ol' way they come.


That seventh night Mr. Miller, the man who lived across the street, walked over.  “Going out to eat again?  Did y’all win a contest?”

“No,” my father said, full of self-righteousness with a puffed out chest.  He then explained the circumstances.  “I’m teaching Janell a lesson.”

Mr. Miller laughed himself silly.  “You damn fool,” he said.  “For a whole week she hasn’t had to cook, or wash dishes, and how much has it cost you to eat out rather than just giving her the allowance and be done with it.”

My father never could look Mr. Miller in the eye again.

Nor could I accept the macho ego as a part of my life.

I'm not going to say that my male ego hasn't risen like the white whale to sink my ship from time to time.  But I've learned to laugh with the crowd when it does.

And yes, the picture is yours truly, my mother and father.

I miss them both more than I can say.


  1. oh Rocky what a wonderfully wicked and hilarious tale....Absolutely loved it and by the sounds of it would have loved sitting back and having a laugh with your mum! Poor old dad haha

    1. Thanks, Jodie. I was hoping for a little humor given my oftentimes serious posts.

  2. A tale from another time. A time when men controlled the purse strings and refused to allow their wives to learn how to drive. When the man's word was law. Times have changed for the better in that respect. And yet....once in a while I see it raise its ugly head. It fills me with fury and makes me want to stomp on someone's face.

    1. My mom and I did laugh about this years later, after he died. She ran her own business, you see. She was amazing, and taught me so much.

  3. very interesting but sad story of a mother and a father, well said Rocky, Keep inform
    Best Regards

    1. They did stay married until my father died. My intent was to show the humorous side of marriage, not the sad side.

  4. Your mom was an amazing woman, the kind I would have enjoyed knowing. If you have more tales like this one it would make a wonderful book!


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