Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Things My Father Taught Me



"Don't ever lie to me," my father would say.

Ever see Robert Duvall in The Great Santini? My father, ladies and gentlemen. Without the alcoholism. The oldest of five children raised under the rigidly expectant, impossibly strict, Bronx, pre-Vatican II Irish Catholic, middle-class, Marine Corps, there-is-right-there-is-wrong-there-is-black-there-is-white- there-is-no-gray world view of the Great Santini, I found myself able to lip-synch the continuing script as it was repeated every two years or so for the next temporarily insane up-and-coming sibling.

"There are two types of people in this world that I absolutely cannot stand and will not have in my presence," he'd hiss. "Liars. And thieves. And in my experience," I'd silently mouth along with him, "if you are one, you are the other. And no child of mine will be a liar. Or a thief.

As you get older, now, you will find yourself facing peer-pressure, and societal pressures, and plenty of opportunities to disappoint your father with poor choices made. You will not always make the correct choice. You will not always make the choice that you would have made if you had stopped and asked yourself, first, 'What would dad think of this?' I understand that. That is called 'growing up.' You're going to screw up. You're going to do things that disappoint me.

But," he'd emphasize with an intimidating lean in and squinted eye, "Don't you ever lie to me. Remember, I know everything. If you have done something wrong, something you know will disappoint me, or even make me angry, operate on the belief that I already know about it. We parents have a direct line to one another. We have eyes in the backs of our heads and the hearing of bats. If you think you might blame 'Dave,' or 'Jimmy,' or 'Mary,' you'd better think twice and operate on the belief that I have already spoken to their parents.

You might be afraid to tell me the truth. You may think I will get mad, or that you will be punished. You're right. I will. And you will. But," he'd lower his voice to a near-whisper at this part, "whatever anger or punishment you might have experienced had you looked me in the eye and told me the truth will be NOTHING compared to to the WRATH OF GOD you will experience the very first time you ever look me in the eye and LIE to me!

And remember this," he'd say, in an almost sympathetic tone, "More important than the eyes in the back of my head and my bat-like hearing is the fact that liars are always their own undoing. Liars always, in the end, give themselves away. Because, if you tell one lie, you always have to tell a second lie when questioned about the first, and then a third, to make the first two seem more like the truth. Finally, all of the lies come tumbling down like a house of cards. Knowing everything, as I do, I will see through your lies. I will question you about them. I will force you to concoct more lies. And then I will hang you with them. And you will wish you had never been born.

Your chances of fooling me with lies may be one in a thousand. And you may think youself pretty slick, at first, should you fool me. But, that real slick feeling will soon give way to a real sick feeling. Because every single time you look at yourself in the mirror after having lied to fool me, your father who loves you, you will see not only a liar, but a liar and a thief. A thief of trust. And that's not what I'm raising."

In my mid-forties now and dad to six myself, I realize that my father was absolutely right.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

NDLax,
Great post as always. If you go back to your Sept. archives and look at the photo of Ed Bradley with his "assistant" and then go to the 60 Minutes website and check out the photo of Kim being interviewed, you'll get a surprise.

Compare the clothes, compare the person - it's Kim in that photo with Ed Bradley. Apparently the interview was done at the WaDu.

I don't know what to think about it but I thought you'd like to know.

11:54 PM  
Blogger NDLax84 said...

I got that pic from a message board poster calling him/herself "rodnreg," who ID'd the woman at Ed's side as his "assistant." I've seen the to-do over at FR, and the juxtaposition of the photos. Odd coincidence of dress? Or is it Kim? Dunno. Don't care. Kim ain't smilin' "in the chair."

12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use your eyes. It's Kim.
The hair, the blouse, the skirt, the belt. It's Kim.
And no one is smiling in the chair.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous gc said...

NDLAX84

Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I'm old enough to remember the movie "The Great Santini". My boyfriend was a Major in the Marines and he THOUGHT he Was the Great Santini. I still remember all the lines of the movie.

Don't ever be ashamed of the background you described. Sure it was hard. But as adults we now know they wanted only the best for their children and they were right.

I too cmme from a family where everything was either black or white and truth or lies. I'm the same way today sometimes at great sacrifice. When you see the world in black and white, it's hard living in a world of gray.

Remember Mark Twain's (and my mother's words, "Always tell the truth; that way you don't have to remember what you said."

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gotcha beat, NDLax. Number 7 is on the way. Your story brought up memories for me. My dad was the most honest man I've ever known. When I was a kid, when we'd go to the store, there were times when the clerk gave him too much change back. He'd walk us right back in there and return the extra change that didn't belong to us. That made an impression on me as you can well imagine.

11:01 AM  
Blogger NDLax84 said...

gc~

I'm not ashamed in the least. I could not be more proud of my dad, or more thankful for the undeterred zeal with which upheld his fatherly obligations and ever sought to instill in his children an innate appreciation of what is, simply, right.

He was an Olympic class, world champion single sculler as a teen, joined the 'Corps in '59 on being informed there was no money for college, made PFC out of Parris Island, married his childhood sweetheart in '61, blinked his eyes and had five kids, took a job requiring near 100% travel on his honorable discharge, and put himself through Fordham taking night classes over the span of nearly ten years. He'd alight business flights, get in the car and drive immediately to Rose Hill to attend his evening coursework. He subsequently got his MBA and is now a highly placed and well compensated executive.

He's completed over 20 full marathons, skis his face off all winter, and he and mom celebrated their 45th Anniversary in May. They are, truly, one another's best friends. My parents rock.

As much as a know-it-all, rebellious teen might shrink from the homilies, I now laugh as I hear them sliding off my lips for the benefit of my own brood. I have, it seems, become my father.

***

anon 11:01~

Wow! Congratulations and good luck! In the interest of full disclosure, you actually have me well beat: I have two natural children and four steps, whom I adore as my own.

2:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

NDlax,

After following in the wings for months you finally did it, you got me to respond. I love the Great Santini reference, the house used in the movie, was my father's 1st cousins house in Beufort, SC. He was actually in the movie. Is there anyway to send you a personal message other then on the blog? Thanks Casey Jones....

2:03 PM  
Blogger NDLax84 said...

Casey Jones~

If you are a member of the LS board, or Free Republic, or Talk Left, send me a PM (my nic is the same) and we can set up e-mail correspondence from there.

M

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ndlax,

I am going to sign up on Talk Left and will send you a pm. Thanks again, great work.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous gc said...

ndlax84,

Thanks for correcting me. I used the wrong word "ashamed". I meant more like embarassed growing up that certain things were more strict than perhaps in other homes. Mine was very similar to yours. You have a wonderful background and are the man you are because of it.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ndlax,
One other thing, I too can relate, My pops gratuated from the Citidel and went onto get his Masters from Duke in Electrical Engineering. If you have seen Lords Of Discipline, which I am sure you have. My pops who also Rocks, said that is was pretty accurate and he instilled the same values in us.

Full disclosure - folks 45th in Feb....very cool.

Casey Jones.

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