Father's Day calls for acting, not reacting
Editor's note: West Linn Adult Community Center volunteer Mary Jean Rivera shares memories of her father as a salute to all dads on Father's Day.
My dad sat forward in his green recliner chair, taking up a prominent position almost central to our living area. I was sitting on the couch, book open on my lap, but I looked up just then. He peeled off his dirty work socks, and looked at them each carefully. They had holes in the heels. I watched as he glanced toward the kitchen. We could hear my mother moving things around, preparing dinner. And then to my total surprise, he put his fingers in a hole in the sock and ripped it wide!
"Dad! What are you doing?"
He put his fingers into the other one, and as he ripped that one too, he smiled at me.
"Your mother will darn the heels, and the darns will give me blisters. I just want her to buy new socks."
Now I understood that perfectly. Mother was very thrifty, beyond necessity sometimes, buying cheap when good quality clothing or food would be a better deal.
He wiggled his toes and massaged each foot a bit, then leaned back and brought the newspaper up closer to see it.
A few evenings later my mother sat on the couch mending. She pulled up his socks to her eye level.
"I can't understand how your dad gets such big holes in his socks," she said, and then she threw them aside.
Besides the living area with the dining room table at one end and the TV at the other, we had a "one-butt" kitchen, three small bedrooms and a bath and a half in our house for six people. There was no place else to go except outside. Being rambunctious or loud was simply not allowed. Any noise brought my father to attention. Asking for attention, as in showing him the latest report card, was momentous. He never ignored us, though he didn't interfere often. He usually took my observations or questions very seriously. Sometimes I wished he was less attentive.
He certainly noticed when I started hanging out at the bowling alley, for instance. But he never stopped me, and it wasn't long before I gave that up anyway. He never asked if I did my homework. He gave us chores to do, and he definitely noticed if they weren't done.
Sometime in my teens I told him he wasn't paying enough attention to what my younger siblings were doing.
"Well," he said, "I am practicing benevolent neglect. You really shouldn't watch your kids too closely."
"How long is an eon?" I asked my Dad.
"How far is up?" he asked me.
I didn't get it. He didn't answer my question, and his answer made no sense. So I found the dictionary, prominent as always in the living room.
"When you ask a question, think first, as you might already know the answer." My dad was full of direction like that.
"My motto is 'act, don't react'" he told me one time, when he was sitting in that green chair. "Think first."
To this day I try to buy quality rather than just cheap, practice benevolent neglect with my children, and think first before I take action. It works for me.
The lunch menu this week features barbecued chicken, macaroni and cheese, corn and peach crisp on Friday, June 14; sausages and baked beans, vegetable medley and chocolate cookies on Monday, June 17 and sausages and white bean soup, roast beef sandwiches and vanilla bundt bake on Wednesday, June 19. Cost is $5 per person.
The West Linn Adult Community Center is located at 1180 Rosemont Road in West Linn.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)