I deliver the mail.
Understanding sometimes comes through repetition…so I’ll say it again, even though I’ve said it a couple of times before in this blog…I deliver the mail to provide us with the money we need to make a living.
My job involves a lot of driving. I see a lot of faces passing the other way on the roads I travel. I get to interact with a lot of different kinds of people. I like that part of my job quite a bit.
The other day, I passed a guy riding a motorcycle. It was a tricked out Harley, expensive black leather saddle bags…a Harley load of chrome and black metal badness.
He was all patina and wind chapped skin…black leather and white beard….a stern look of concentrated coolness on his face.
I waved at him like I wave at everyone. I wave at everyone like some needy little puppy…hurt and surprised if I don’t get the expected response of a “wave back”.
This guy looked me right in the eye and zoomed past.
He was a pretty tough guy.
I drove around shoving mail in mailboxes…thinking about this guy and what it means to be tough.
My father was a different kind of tough. He wasn’t the “look at me” kind of tough…he was a pretty quiet man.
When I was 15, I came home from school and discovered my mother at the bottom of our stairs. She’d fallen as a result of a spinal condition that she’d been diagnosed with a couple of years earlier. I guess the condition had made her lose her balance and she’d spent the day at the bottom of the stairs waiting for someone to come home and find her there.
I called my father at work, he called the ambulance, and Mom went to the hospital for the summer.
For the next 15 years, my father was her caregiver. Caregiver is a strange way to put it , really. My father was her husband. My sister and I were her children. We all took care of each other.
That was my example of a tough man.
It wasn’t someone who rode a wild-looking bike…it wasn’t someone who got in a lot of fights in the bars or had a lot of women…it wasn’t any of the things that some people think are examples of toughness.
It was just a quiet man who took care of his family even when it was hard…or maybe especially when it was hard.
A child supposes that the parent’s dream is to serve the needs of the child. Sometimes, it feels like maybe children just assume that the parent didn’t have any purpose or aspirations before the child entered the world…like the assumption is something like, “here I am…now you can start living”.
I know that my father had dreams. He told me once that he’d wanted to go to Australia and become a veterinarian. That’s pretty “out there” to want to go down to the Outback . I’m sure there were a lot more things that he’d dreamed of doing that I never heard about.
I know that, like all of us, my father had dreams that he owned independent of his family.
I hear talk of a life of quiet desperation…but I wonder if one of the signs of real toughness is letting your family enjoy a life that, for the most part, is as much “business as usual” as possible…no matter what your dreams for yourself are?
Toughness has a lot of faces. Steady and calm is one of them…but it’s one that’s easy to take for granted because it’s not very dramatic or confrontational.
My father was a tough man.