Monday, April 03, 2006

"Down once more..."

Sometimes you just don't fit in. Your round peg doesn't fit into their square hole. You just can't help the circumstance you were born into. A shame, really, because everyone has a beautiful story...if we'll give them a chance, be still, and listen. I guess what I really meant in my 3-31 post was thanks, guys, for sharing your stories. I'm glad I slowed down long enough to get to know you a little. So much has happened recently that I had been searching for some way to make sense of it all...

It started long ago. I had a normal childhood except I was blessed with parents that were very, very, good (almost perfect): noble, self sacrificing, hard working (had the Family Grocery Business), they were children of the Great Depression who wanted only the best for me and my brother. But mostly for Brother, I suppose, since he was a Junior and 6-years the elder (the way Mom looked at it, anyway. I don't really think Dad cared much about that stuff). I suspect Mom didn't mind when a little of Brother's glory shined her way. I never minded much...he was a pretty awesome guy and I was the text-book little brother...just like the Beaver. I was told over and over again that I even looked just like the Beav. That's how it all went, anyway. My brother was the smart one: graduated from Baylor with the accounting degree; married the appropriate sorta-pretty-college girl-grabbing-for-the-brass-ring. They had the mandated first-child-as-a-son and followed it up with second-son (which college-girl thought secured her a place in immortality...but who can guaranty immortality except God? Don't EVER misplace your trust).

All went according to script...we lived a hearty robust life, worked hard, Brother and I found Jesus at age 9 respectively like you’re supposed to, and all was well. Dad worked long, hard hours and slowly grew the Business and acquired a reputation for fairness and honesty. Mom did PTA & church, made sure we were all fed and where we were supposed to be and eventually worked long and hard helping Dad with the books.

Brother tried football but knee injuries forced his 8th grade retirement and he became a very accomplished golfer (won the North Texas Youth tournament his Junior year in High School beating, among others, Ben Crenshaw), worked after school in the Family Business then went to college where he met and married his wife. After a year of grad-school he came home and joined the Family Business full time.

I played football from 2nd through 14th grade and did band from 7th-9th (had a thing for the Tympani...still a sucker for the Symphony). I had more money than most of my friends. Not because we were rich (we weren't) but because I worked...in the Family Business...all the time...and never had any time to go spend what I made. Great for a nest egg but it sucks for your social life. It ultimately cost me a 4-year relationship with a wonderful girl and forced me to make allot of hard decisions…some I’m still not real proud of. All that was ok, I supposed. Brother came back and started in the Family Business putting his accounting knowledge to work and pushing to grow. I took his place at college. Never could quite measure up to what he accomplished, though...not in Mom's eyes.

I was home for Christmas break my junior year. It was Friday 12-23 and Dad had to make 3-hour round trip to a business associates house. The Cowboys and Vikings were playing for the NFC Championship on Christmas Eve (this was before the cowboys dishonored themselves and their fans) and Dad's friend was giving him some complimentary game tickets. A 3-hour road trip may not seem like a big deal until you understand that Dad never went anywhere...NEVER. I couldn't even drag him away long enough to get a line wet. He couldn't bear the thought of being out of touch with The Business for that long (no cell phones in those days).

When he asked me to go along I jumped at the chance to have some private time with him away from The Business and Family. It was very educational. I found out that, despite what I had been told, he wasn't ashamed of me...in fact he thought I was pretty ok and admired my tendency for doing what I thought was right and not listening to other people...except when I didn't listen to him. I found out that not only did he NOT go ballistic like Mom did (and she predicted that he would), he was actually excited when I told him I didn't feel like my place was in the Family Business after college. He said I'd better NOT follow him unless I could figure a way to do it without it costing my whole life and time away from my future family...this shocked me because I never dreamed Dad had any regrets about The Business. I found out, too, that he wasn't really all that thrilled about Brother coming into The Business...that meant he had to keep pushing and expanding...trying to be successful. He wished Brother had had the guts and courage to follow his chosen career of accounting and, not to sound too indelicate, leave Dad alone to enjoy a little bit of what he had built. He was 53 and, while not ready to retire, he sure didn't want to sink more time, energy, and money into a business that had extracted a heavy toll from him of 70-75 hours a week for almost 20 years and was finally starting to provide a reasonably comfortable living. Dad ended up telling me that I had damn well (his words) better promise him to finish school and follow that secret dream career I had just confided to him. This was the first time Dad and I talked to each other as men and not just father and son.

Three weeks later he was dead.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous russ said...

I never had a Family Business to join...if I did, I prolly wouldn;t have joined it.

My grandfather left Kansas to get away from farming. I'm glad he left Kansas.

4:52 PM, April 06, 2006  
Blogger david said...

Whoa. Beast, that's powerful.

5:25 AM, April 07, 2006  

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