Thursday, June 14, 2007

Binocular Vision

I mentioned that when Forrest was here on the 3rd, one of the things we talked about was family memories. I left home when Forrest was 11, so most of his teen years happened when I wasn't there. Most of them, we had never really discussed. And I'm so glad that we finally got around to it, because we made an amazing discovery, and one that might not have been possible much earlier. Like, before I began writing about Daddy on this blog and found some perspective on him.

I'm not exactly sure of what led into this, but somehow we got to talking about chores. And my discovery that not only was I not such an innocent victim of the chore wars in our house as I had thought I was, but also that I had figured out that Daddy's motivation for never being pleased with my efforts were to keep me from "getting in trouble." For those of you who have not followed this adventure in epiphany, a brief review. Daddy was an excellent father for little kids. When Mama first married him, when I was nine and Forrest four, he could hardly make a misstep. He allowed us lots of freedom to wander and learn and was good at showing us things and teaching us life lessons and listening to us and understanding both the way kids think and that kids are capable of more than many adults give them credit for. He held us responsible for our actions without being harsh; he was firm and fair. Well, except for our little contretemps over dust mopping my bedroom, which gave direction to future battles.

But, when a kid got to be a teen, all of Daddy's good sense seemed to disappear. Where I had been allowed to wander unsupervised for hours at the age of nine, at 12 he had to know where I was every minute. He clocked the length of time it took me to walk from the school bus stop to the house, and would call from the office at exactly that time on random days to make sure I had walked straight home. Where my punishment, when he punished instead of taught, when I was younger was to have my library card removed (punish the kid, not the crime, was his motto), after 13 it was to be grounded for a month. And I was always in trouble, and therefore always grounded, because of chores. He once grounded me because I hadn't emptied the waste basket in his bedroom -- which he had brought into the house and placed between the dresser and the wall the day before and therefor I didn't know was there! And he would set standards of excellence that he wouldn't tell me about and which I therefore couldn't meet.

Recently, I realized that the problem was that he was afraid I'd come home pregnant. He had no idea how to protect me when he wasn't with me, so his answer was to ground me. If I was grounded, I couldn't date or even go for a walk around the block. Can't get pregnant then.

Well, as I was telling these tales to Forrest and Carolyn, Forrest told me about a couple of his adventures. First, we have the lawn. Daddy told him that before he went out, he was to mow the lawn "once vertical, once horizontal. Then trim around the trees. Then sweep up all the grass. Then come and get me." When Forrest went to get Daddy, Daddy found one, count them 1, blade of grass that wasn't cut and Forrest had to do it all over again and was then grounded for a month.

Second we have the prom. Forrest took his future first wife, Chery, to the prom. Daddy lent him the car and told him, "Drive from here to her house and from her house to the school and back. Don't go anywhere else." Forrest, usually so compliant, after the prom drove exactly two blocks out of his way so they could park and cuddle, and then two blocks back to his appointed path. And when he got home, Daddy went out and checked the odometer. Asked Forrest what he had done, and Forrest, knowing that if he claimed that Chery had forgotten something and they'd had to double back, Daddy would call and confirm, confessed. Which led to Forrest being grounded and Daddy going over to Chery's parents the next day and telling them that if they (both sets of parents) weren't careful, they could end up grandparents before they wanted to be.

Oh. How interesting. Daddy found a solution, and continued to use it. Except that by the time Forrest went to the prom, I had already come home from Berkeley pregnant.

See what I mean when I say that Forrest is very confirming to me? Forrest not only remembers the things I remember, he has further examples. Things anyone else would think we are crazy to imagine, we mirror and totally understand.


kenju said...

Wow. I thought I had it tough growing up. I always wished I had a brother or sister, so I wouldn't be the complete focus of my mother, who was almost as bad as your dad. She was so paranoid that I was accused of most everything, whether I did it or had any idea about doing it or not. I don't miss those days at all!

Maya's Granny said...


No, I don't miss those days, either.

Joy Des Jardins said...

Your Daddy was a tough cookie J. It seems not too much got past him....which makes for a lot of frustration in a kid's life. Even so, you and Forrest sure seemed to handle all that he tested you with. Look at the wonderful mom and grandma you turned out to be....