Posts Tagged ‘fathers and sons’

I was introduced early to the man club through my dad & his circle of hunting buddies.

They would stand around in a smoky garage, swap stories with Merle Haggard and George Jones playing in the background on the AM radio.
I still remember the smell of the garage, it was a combination of sweet feed, motor oil, cigarettes and hard work.
These were Men who only called each other by last names ( I didn’t know that one of my dad’s friends even had a first name until his funeral).

These were good men who loved their country and their families ( sometimes it was easier for them to communicate their love for their country than their family), in fact these men mostly communicated in the manly language of insult, they mercilessly put-down each other, because, after all, that’s what men do…right?

They referred to their wives as the “ball and chain” and “the old lady”.
They worked on old trucks, butchered rabbits and deer,
They spit, cursed, laughed, Talked about politics, football and muzzle loaders.

Innuendo flew around that garage like stained confetti. Women were objects of desire rather than dignity.

They were men…good men.

They had the best intentions.

They had good hearts.

They were fiercely loyal to each other.

My brother and I would stand in the corner, out of the way, soaking it all in.
I left that garage with the fragrance of pall-malls on my clothing and hair.

I left with the fragrance of misguided manhood on my soul.

Every boy wants to be a part of the man club.
We imitate…we take notes…we learn the rules.
It’s natural, sons were made to learn from fathers.
We were made to mimic…to imitate.
But, Maturity is learning to imitate heart instead of habit.
We can learn great things from the hearts of those who have gone before us.
But, We don’t have to repeat the habits.

From time to time, I see men my age stuck in the old familiar groove. They are masters in the linguistic art of insult, they live out of a place of insecurity. They compare and ruthlessly claw to get to the top of the heap.
It is easier to insult than invent.
There is a better way…

A new way to be man.

A way that knows and accepts yourself and refuses to play the game.
A way that elevates compassion over comparison as a man gauge.
A way that creates a safe place for everyone you love.
We need men who live for something bigger than themselves.

We need men who throw away the outdated ruler of manhood.

We need men who are passionate about their passions.
We need men whose words COVER instead of CUT…words that BUILD instead of BREAK.
We need a new man club.

It was a really good day…until it wasn’t.

It was the summer of 1981.
My Dad was teaching me how to drive.
Dad had just gotten a 1974 Ford Maverick. He restored it and had it painted and pinstriped. It was a beautiful chunk of shiny metal. He was really proud. It was a beautiful, reasonably fast car. He had recaptured a part of the youth that he had forfeited in the name of responsibility. You have to understand, my Dad was a very practical man who drove practical vehicles. He usually drove pick up trucks with gun racks. This was his big mid-life splurge. It was the closest thing he ever had to a sports car.
He took me driving on a Summer afternoon. At first, he was driving. We were just taking a lazy drive. We drove through our neighborhood and over by my Grandma’s house.
then, He pulled over and threw me the keys…to HIS MAVERICK! I adjusted the seat as far up as it could go. Then I took off. I was a little nervous, but I was doing it. I was focused and I even used the turn signals once. It was going good. My Dad was in a really good mood. We stopped at Hi-View Mini-Mart and we each got a cold glass bottle of Pepsi. We were cruising through the back roads with the windows down and an Alabama song playing on the radio. It was a perfect summer afternoon. Dad punched me in the arm and grunted, “you are doing alright, boy.”
It was the closest that I felt to my Dad in a while.

It was a really good day, then in one moment EVERYthing changed!

We were almost home…

I was turning into our long gravel driveway and…well…I guess, I might have over compensated a bit…Instead of the driveway…I was headed straight toward the barbed wire fence that ran parallel to it…in HIS MAVERICK!
We all have moments where we honestly don’t know what happened.
HOLY CRAP moments.
I was disconnected from all reason and road safety and I punched it.
It was an ugly blur that seemed to be moving in fast forward and slow motion all at the same time.
There were metal fence posts and chunks of dirt and grass flying through the air.
It was all accompanied by some unbelievably ugly scraping noises.
For some God forsaken reason…I…just…couldn’t…stop.
I had one foot pressed down on the gas and one pressed down on the brake.
It was a surreal moment of stupidity.
The car finally came to a stop.
I had taken out about 25 feet of barbed wire.
I wanted to throw up or run away.
I slowly looked over at my Father…
His face had turned a shade of pink that I had never seen him wear before.
His eyebrows were twitching and his nostrils were flaring.
It looked like his forehead was about to explode.
He glared at me and got out of the car. He stomped around looking at the mangled fence and the horribly disfigured sports car.
Then he shouted one four letter word that pretty much summed up the whole situation.
My Mom, who had witnessed the whole ugly ordeal from the dining room window, hurried out with two glasses of sweet tea. (Sweet tea has supernatural soothing powers…Mom recognized this as a situation in need of soothing.) I’m pretty sure my siblings were making my funeral plans.

I walked out to our hay barn and cried for hours. I had screwed up. My Irish setter, Pat, put his head in my lap and let me know that I was gonna be alright. Sometimes, only a good dog understands your pain.
Then, my Dad and me fixed the fence together, because that is what you do. We didn’t talk much…we just fixed a broken fence.
Eventually Dad could look at me again without making that strange wheezing noise in his throat.
We got through it.
It became a story…a story that EVERYbody who came over to our house the next 2 years heard. “Hey…you see my boy over there…let me tell you what he did…”