Time to Walk the Dog
My father and I were resting comfortably on our downstairs sofa riveted to the T.V. The climax of the latest Star Trek episode was just beginning to unfold. As the show cut for a commercial break my father turned to me and asked if I had removed the air conditioner from my upstairs, bedroom window. In our house I had a fall ritual involving air conditioning unit removal from the window and subsequent storage of said monstrosity in the closet. My younger brother, a hulking high school football linebacker, had a corresponding ritual of placing the air conditioning unit in the window the following spring. I hated removing this hulking piece of metal from my window because it was heavy and dirty. Each annual removal operation usually meant sore, scraped arms and liberal amounts of coolant oil on my designer jeans.
"Iíll take it out after the show is over" I replied to my dad. Unfortunately this did not bring the closure I had expected. My father, angered that I had left this task to the final days of fall (still within the required timeline in my mind) insisted the job be done immediately. Like now.
This made the whole ordeal more aggravating to me. Not only was I to suffer abuse at the hands of this air conditioner but I would miss the end of my show too.
I climbed upstairs, seething with a rage mixed with adolescent hormones and self pity. I reached my bedroom, threw back the drapes, approached the window from where the air conditioner was perched and jerked open the window. To my horror, the air conditioner tumbled backwards out the window, end over end and landed squarely on the roof of my fathers two day old Buick. The Buick roof crumpled like a piece of paper. Meanwhile, the air conditioner had bounced off the car and landed sharply on our paved driveway. The whole incident took no more than a few seconds and yet my mind played it back in horrific, slow motion. I surveyed the scene. My dadís Buick looked like somebody had taken a sledge hammer and swung a lethal blow to its middle. The air conditioner lay in a heap of scrap metal beside the car.
I reflected on my next move. I had waded into my fair share of trouble before and had come up with many ingenious cover ups some of which still remain a secret to this day. In surveying the scene on this occasion however nothing came to mind. In fact if any family member even chose to step outside our house, punishment would be quick and immediate. When no lie would do I decided to tell the unabridged truth. My mind made up, I went back downstairs and observed my father happily watching the ending strains of Star Trek. I stood by his chair and fessed up, "Dad, I just dropped the air conditioner through the roof of your car." My father, engrossed in my t.v. show, failed to look up as he replied, "Son, stop fooling around and put the air conditioner away". I stepped between my dad and the t.v. persisting, "Iím serious dad, I just dropped the air conditioner through your car roof." Seeing my ashen white face and my sweating brow seemed to lend new credence to my dialogue. My father got up and walked outside. I waited patiently inside. My father returned, somewhat shaken but silent. "Son" he said, "I am going to take the dog for a walk". With that he left for what turned out to be one of the longest romps in the park our pooch ever enjoyed
I am now a father of three girls and a lay counselor to teens. I see new wisdom on how that decades old situation was dealt with. Knee jerk reactions to bad news hardly ever holds the rational wisdom of a measured, meditated response.
Our lives are frequently burdened with more challenging scenarios than a car and an air conditioner. I respect the measured and careful responses our political leaders afforded us in the midst of the unprecedented terror that was inflicted on us from others on that fateful Sep 11th day. Then I look back on my own little corner of the world and wonder how I can so quickly become frustrated with family and coworkers over the mundane. Oh God, help me be a more patient man. Proverbs 29:11 comes to mind; "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control." (NIV)
In retrospect, maybe I should buy a dog and walk it when life demands it.
By Tom Smith
(published Feb/02 Christian Week)