Forgive me children for I have sinned.
Time for a few confessions. Some dozen years ago, before I was married, I worked in Jersey City New Jersey. I was (computer) Network Manager for a international shipping concern and worked in an office of Information Technology folk. Actually, back then I think we still called it MIS or something. Anyway, in this office of 50 plus computer people, I think 49 of them were guys. We had a Director back then with whom I worked closely. Nice fella, real smart, but he had a mouth that would make truck drivers and sailors the world over blush. This guy could fit more cuss words into a sentence than anyone else I have ever met. He would pepper his conversation with f-bombs the way that you might pepper your Caesar salad.
With this guy in charge and a mostly male environment, the office culture was less than ideal. Actually, it was ridiculous. We all cussed dozens or even hundreds of times a day without any thought. When after a few years I moved to a different office I was finally around normal people who were rightfully offended by the unrestricted use of these colorful euphemisms. Newly conscious of my potty mouth, I endeavored to break the habit, which I eventually did. I hardly ever cuss anymore. Hardly.
Confession number two, I have a bit of a short fuse. This is never more so than when I perceive myself to be on the receiving end of some injustice. I don’t pretend that this is anything other than it is, a character flaw. I must continually try to control my temper and I am mostly successful. Mostly.
This all brings me to Sunday and confession number three. My wife and five kids, ages nine to one, were returning home from mass. Mass this Sunday was a good day. My seven year old son had his first holy communion the day before. He was decked out in his communion suit and was very attentive at mass. Even the five year old, who normally is a total nuisance at mass, was well behaved and attentive. As we were leaving the church, a nice woman complimented us on how well our children were behaved. It was a good day.
In the minivan on the way home I showered them with praise for their good behavior. The five year old volunteered that he was pretty sure that iced cream was in order to celebrate the occasion. I agreed. Thus it was that life was very good when just half mile from home we came upon a roadblock.
The roadblock was in the form of a very large and tricked out dump truck. I didn’t even know that dump truck could have bling, but this one did. There was a man standing in front of it with his hand up indicating that we should stop and of course we obliged. As it turned out he was blocking the road to allow motorcycle traffic to exit the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island which is right next to our neighborhood. Each year at this time, hundreds of motorcycles and their riders descend upon the shrine for a blessing. This seems like a nice tradition and of course we want all of those riders to be safe.
We waited for a few minutes in the van as motorcycle after motorcycle exited the shrine. Finally there was a break in the caravan and the woman blocking traffic from the other direction signaled to dump truck guy that it was ok for us to go and he in turn waved for us to proceed. Now, as my wife will attest, I am not a timid driver. That said, I did have five kids in the car including a now sleeping baby. I eased my way around the dump truck. Apparently the dump truck dude did not think I was moving fast enough and screamed at me, my wife and kids, “HURRY UP! C’MON MOVE IT! MOVE IT!’
Now I was not burning rubber but then again I was hardly moving inordinately slowly and his vitriolic impatience seemed entirely unwarranted. I was displeased. I voiced my displeasure through the use of a fairly mild toot of the horn. This, I felt, was an entirely reasonable yet restrained retort to his angry impatience. Even though I was clearly the aggrieved party I kept my temper in check and we proceeded onward.
As we drove, we approached the lady, and I use the term loosely, who was blocking traffic from the other direction standing directly in front of the entrance to the shrine. Having heard my toot of the horn, this ‘lady’ decided that she would voice her displeasure at us in a different, less agreeable way. As we drove by doing about fifteen miles per hour she leaned in real close and in full throat screamed at my van full of children “F— YOU!”
I was shocked. Appalled. And that is when it happened. This was an injustice that I could not take. Without thought, my intellect, quick wit, and years of training took over and I retorted with the very clever line, “NO, F— YOU!”
I didn’t say it terribly loud but my nine year old daughter, sitting directly behind me, gasped. I hung my head in shame. I thought that I had long ago conquered my potty mouth, but there it was. My past sins had come back to haunt me.
Later in the day I took my daughter aside and apologized for what I said. “Daddy lost his temper and said a very bad word and I am very sorry. I should never say a word like that for any reason and neither should you.” My daughter assured me that all was forgiven but she did so with a just too large smile on her face. I think she knows that she has me. I have ceded the moral high ground and she knows it. I think she thinks that she has at least on get out of jail free card coming her way. Maybe she does. The thing that hurts is that I feel I have lost something in her eyes. Daddy is always supposed to do the right thing and this time he didn’t. I suppose she already accepts that even Daddies makes mistakes sometimes, but I have a harder time accepting it. I wanted to be the ideal Dad for as long as I could. Now I feel that I have lost something special in the eyes of my daughter. I hope I can get it back.
As for dump truck dude and his potty mouthed lady, well they can go and ….
Well, you get the idea.