His Social Contract

11

June 22, 2017, Prescott- 

Dad left us, thirty-one years ago, today.  He sometimes told others, but not me, that he couldn’t quite figure me out, but that he was sure I’d end up okay.  I heard all this, from my less-reticent father-in-law, a few years after Dad had passed.

He did teach us all about the social contract.  His tenets were succinct:

  1.  Your word is bond.  The few times I caught Hell from him were mainly centered on not doing what I had promised.  I’ve made it a priority, as an adult, to keep my promises.
  2. Individual relationships are the cornerstone of all else.  His take was,  “What good is the ‘greater good’, if it’s based on everything bad?”  This was in reaction to both the left-wing excesses of the late 1960’s, and to the conservative backlash of the Nixon years.  Dad held court, each weekday evening before supper, in the screened front porch, during late spring, summer and early fall, while switching to his recliner, in the living room, during the colder months.  One or two men, either relatives, or guys from work, would show up and kibbitz, over a can of beer.
  3.  Women “did best” by tending to home and hearth; though he saw it as  good, that  Mom earned money of her own, by styling hair, in the kitchen.  She was a top flight cosmetologist and hair dresser, so it was a marvelous arrangement.  I also got to hear very interesting commentary, on a variety of topics, from the women who came for her services, whilst doing my homework or hand-writing my little “newspaper”.  He also forbade us from making messes or asking for clothes to be washed, on weekends.  His view was that Mom worked five days a week, on housework, and that was enough.  We learned, early on, to make our own beds, put our clothes away, carry anything that was on the stairs up to the appropriate room, and fix our own breakfasts and lunches. (I never did subscribe to the idea that a woman was best off staying home, but it was the reality, in the 1950’s, for many.)
  4.  A real man could party late into the night, (he seldom did), but would dutifully get up the next day and do a full day’s work.  I took that one to heart, even in my lowest days of drunken excess.  It was, to my mind, the best cure for a hangover, anyway.  Many a Saturday morning would find me out in the yard, making myself useful, after having come home a useless wretch.  He liked the first, as much as loathed the second.
  5. Don’t spend more than you take in.  He’d have been apoplectic, had he lived to see us go over the financial edge, in the 2000’s.  Then again, he’d have seen it coming, and raised his voice, well before we bought the house, while Penny was struggling with her health issues.  It would have been, “Stay the damned course!”.  He’d be happier with me now.  Some lessons are just that way.

Palpitations

6

March 22, 2017, Prescott-

My heart was aflutter, somehow, this morning.

I felt an intense, gentle warmth, coming from an unknown source.

My thoughts went to a barely-known friend,

some distance to the southeast of here.

I felt her energy and encouragement.

Then, they went to Dad.

He’d have celebrated his ninetieth birthday, today,

had his heart not failed him,

on that warm June morning, thirty-one years ago.

Dad always wanted us to think of the sunny parts of life,

to get us through the challenges.

He never wanted any of us to give up,

and that’s largely why I’m still here.

Love is always the secret.