“If you want to know how a man will treat his wife, watch how he treats his mother.” Wise words, spoken many years ago by my father. I’ve wondered if they might have been delivered as a ruse, to induce the four brothers who lived in my house to treat their mother with respect and love. Regardless, it had the desired effect. Oh, we stepped out of line a time or two, but we loved our mom and besides, we knew that there was retribution coming if Dad caught wind of any mistreatment. It was a good lesson, which is still bearing fruit today.
I thought of my father’s words the other day. A customer, who had the distinct odor of alcohol consumption emanating from his general vicinity, was visiting my business establishment. It was past closing time, but the young man had asked me to wait while his wife brought down some money for an instrument he wanted. It seemed to me that she might not be all that keen on spending the cash, but he assured me that there was no problem, so I waited. I stood at my work bench and fiddled with a different instrument as he took a call on his cell phone. “Oh, hey Mom. I’m glad you called.” The words came from his mouth glibly enough, but it was obvious that he would rather she hadn’t. There was some small talk and then he explained where he was and what was going on. “I’m not drinking at all, Mom.” I almost had to grab my eyebrows, as they began to rise dangerously. Maybe I was wrong, though. That odor could have come from someone else. “No, she’s okay with me buying the guitar.” I wasn’t so sure about that one, either, but it seemed like he had a story he was sticking to, so I kept working. As he talked, a vehicle bearing his wife rolled up in front of the store, so he ended his conversation abruptly with the caller on his phone.
The young lady stalked into the store. Yes, stalked. There is no other word to describe it. She didn’t say a word; not a single word. Her hand reached out and nearly threw the bills at him and she spun around, snapped the door open, and was gone, just like that. He looked at me, laughed nervously, and handed the cash over. As I wrote up the ticket, he rationalized….I mean, explained to me. “I had been drinking quite a bit, but I haven’t had a drink for seventy days. I really need this guitar to help me keep sober.” This time, I was sure. As he said the word “seventy”, the puff of air from his mouth bore the strong odor of whiskey to me again. Maybe it had been seventy days before today, but he was definitely off the wagon on this day. I said nothing, but finished the transaction as quickly as I could and locked the door after him.
I am sad. The words my father spoke forty years ago came back to me in a rush. As the Lovely Lady and I drove to get a quick bite to eat, I talked with her. We agreed that the marriage has absolutely no chance of success. I am sorry for the young lady, but I also find myself in sympathy with her mother-in-law. The man lied to his own mother as she asked him the question point blank, wishing only to help him be a better person. “Have you been drinking?” And, again as she inquired about his relationship with his wife, attempting to help him understand that it would only work as a partnership, “Have you talked with her about buying the instrument?” Both times, he brushed her off with a blatant lie. My contention is that if he will lie to his mother, he is, without question, lying to his wife. He even blew his alcohol fumes in my face as he lied to me! I am sad…sad for his wife, sad for his mother, sad for his friends, and yes…sad for him. I am sorry that he didn’t have a father who taught him to respect the women in his life, either by instructing him or by modeling it for him.
There is something to be said for being a people-watcher, though. Yes, I experience some mood swings as I see the horrible way some folks can treat others, but it also leaves indelible images stamped on my brain which cement my resolve to act honorably and respectfully to the people who are placed in my life. Some people watch others and learn ways to be more devious; I find myself sympathizing with the victims of their depravity and undertaking to avoid their error at all costs.
So…good old Dad was right! Of course, when I was a teen, those words would never have passed my lips. Wisdom, it seems, comes with age, although it would have been nice to understand a few of these concepts a lot earlier.
If I think of any more wise things to share with you, I’ll pass them on. Don’t count on too many of those any time soon. Slow learner, you remember?
“Men are respectable only as they respect.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson~American poet and essayist~1803-1882)
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me…”
(Otis Redding~American songwriter~1941-1967)