Monday, September 30, 2013


What Messages of encouragement and confidence do we send our children as they grow, and what messages inadvertently do the opposite? I sat on the back deck with my semi-monthly Rocky Patel, a dram of rye over ice, the dogs, and as darkness descended, I wondered this.

Twenty-five years ago, I lived in Sonora.  Dad was visiting from Chico.  We’d entered the garage early one evening after completing some outside chore.  I reached to flip the interior light switch off and troublingly noted, again, that the switch plate felt hot.  With a flat-bladed screwdriver I’d been carrying, I removed the plastic plate.  Two bare, five inch pigtails of wire were twisted together and crammed into the box around the switch by the previous owner/builder.  Current coursing though those wires had blackened the inside of the switch cover. 
Damn house could burn down, I thought, turning off the breaker.  I fumbled around until I could snip the wire ends.
Dad stood back, looking over my shoulder and said: “You can’t do that.  You don’t know what you’re doing.”
I clearly recall that, without thinking, I responded, “You’re my dad.  You’re supposed to tell me what I can do; not what I can’t.”
Having built and wired a tiny workshop at a former residence, I’d been here before.  I clipped the wires and inserted them into respective holes in the side of the switch, tugged on them to make sure they were secure, reassembled the thing, flipped on the breaker, then the switch.  The interior light worked and no heat was generated.
But Dad had left the building.

Down some stairs from the deck, a big silver maple tree grew in the middle of our neglected back yard.  Dad had found a Henry’s in the refrigerator, made his way to that tree and sat in the weedy grass, back against the tree’s narrow trunk, fingering his beer and smoking a pipe that now-and-again glowed against the darkness.
I found a Henry’s of my own, and, in the gathering dusk, made my way out to the tree and sat down, back against the opposite side of the maple.
Nothing more was said.

© 2013
Church of the Open Road Press

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