Sunday, February 20, 2005
There must be a gene on one of the chromosomes, something that has been since dawn of man, a noble characteristic that causes each male of the species to protect and serve. ( This should not be confused with the non-existent gene mentioned by Senator Harry Reid, the one every American boy is born with that carries the American Dream.) This vital gift from our Creator ensures that the human family will continue; overcoming their dread of night and those unseen forces of evil that lurk just beyond our ability to observe them. Over the years fathers have taken their charge seriously; rolling a large boulder in front of the cave entrance at night to keep out the savage beasts, making sure the last embers of the fire were out and things like that. All these rituals were done to ensure his family’s safe passage through the dark hours.
My father possesses the same protect and serve mechanism; no, we didn’t live in a cave. My mother often wondered aloud, “Do you think we live in a barn?” It was her sarcastic way of asking us to shut the door; but we never lived in a cave. Dad was the bread-winner and protector for our family.
Each night he would start by walking to the front door, bolt the lock and turn off the porch light. His steps were traced in the terrazzo tile as he then bolted the side door leading to the garage; turning off each light in turn along the way. The last door to be checked was the sliding patio door that guarded the rear entrance to the house. He would then close the drapes, turn off the den lights and go to bed for the night; his job completed. I know this because each night without fail my dad made sure our house was secure. It didn’t matter if he was sick with the flu or worn out from a hard day at work; at 10 o’clock he managed to find the strength from within to accomplish his sacred duties.
One Saturday evening we were watching a movie, my dad had fallen asleep in his favorite armchair. Occasionally he would snore so intensely as to awaken momentarily; glance at his surroundings, then fall back asleep after assuring himself that all was well. 10 o’clock came and we all watched his lumbering frame arise, escaping the clutches of the Naugahyde throne. The television program continued; but the real show was just starting.
Dad walked to the front door; bolted and turned off those lights, retraced his steps until he was at the side door and bolted that too. He walked to the sliding back door, oblivious to the fact that we were all wide awake. There was the familiar click of the latch being engaged; leaving one last thing to accomplish, the drapes.
He reached around the edge of the drapes for the cord that pulls them along the track; they danced about half way shut on his first attempt. On his second attempt his grasp faltered and instead of closing the drapes he pulled the opposite cord and they flew back to full open. He breathed out, his eyes never once opening and started over. At some point we all forgot about the program we’d been watching. Instead we opted to watch a live Bolshoi performance, “Ballet of the Draperies”, a lesser known work that Tchaikovsky never got around to orchestrating. Each time Dad reached to pull, the draperies would dart and sway, back and forth; never quite opening or closing all the way. His breathing was becoming labored and the veins in his neck were beginning to swell noticeably; it was not going as planned.
“Dick…”, my mother interrupted; half alarmed, half amused in muted laughter, “…what the heck are you doing?” I know my mother didn’t say “heck”; refined and dignified as she is, there is no way she would have watered down the request for our benefit.
My father stopped to compose his answer. It is always wise to pause prior to returning a flame; especially when it’s to the woman you share your life with. The cobwebs broke away long enough for him to compile a few words, carefully and thoughtful so as not to create derision. “I’m practicing!”, until at last the draperies managed to play his curtain song.
Posted by T. F. Stern at 11:34 AM