Been listening to Walk Like A Man for 30 years now, never playing it as much as Tougher Than The Rest Or Tunnel Of Love for whatever reasons men have for doing or not doing what we do.
Got my teenage son sitting on my right, talking about how he can’t believe he is turning 18 this year and memories of the same conversation with my dad long ago.
Life doesn’t look much like I expected it to back then and I can’t say whether that is a good or bad thing because I wasn’t given the gift of true sight.
Granted I do know things and I don’t give a damn if some people think it is shtick or bravado ‘cuz the soul recognizes things and people.
I’ll Punch Him In The Throat
The teen and I call California and get my old man on the phone.
“How are you feeling dad?”
“Like hell, I think I am depressed.”
“Dad, I am going to tell you how to beat this. SUCK IT UP. You have to power through this part and see what happens. Push yourself and it will get better.”
The teen surprises me and tells his grandfather he agrees with me. His grandfather emits a soft chuckle and when we hang up I feel a little bit better.
It is normal to feel miserable, I am sure I would and I am 26 years younger than dad is.
I am not there to pull him out of bed and help physically move him so I have to motivate him a bit to do it on his own.
He is still able and capable, maybe not as much as he once was but he can do it. I know from the last trip there is ample muscle in his arms and legs, might be wobbly but he can do it.
It is 2005 and I am standing in my grandfather’s hospital room.
It is just me and him, grandma died six months ago and he is going downhill a little bit.
“Orrie, go get your brother and tell him we’re leaving.”
“Grandpa, I think you are confused, it is Josh.”
He looks at me and laughs, “one day is like the next here.”
We talk for a few minutes and I confirm I woke him from a dream and I figure it is probably why he got confused.
I silently wonder what year he thought it was in his dream but I don’t ask.
“Mom and dad are still back East, I walked here on my lunch break.”
He nods his head and we talk about his great grandchildren and my job.
In between he tells me again not to worry about his dying. “I am not ready yet. If that Grim Reaper shows I’ll punch him in the nose.”
“I am not sure he still has a nose.”
“Fine, I’ll punch him in the throat.”
I laugh and remember my father told me never to doubt his father’s willingness to punch someone in the nose.
“He may be 90, but don’t think he is unwilling to defend himself.”
I remember smiling at my dad and saying I knew.
I tell him I remember what happened at my sister’s wedding.
“We got rear ended and J jumped out and started arguing with the guy who hit us. I didn’t know who she was fighting with so I jumped out and yelled at her to get back in the car.
I had to yell at grandpa to get back in too.”
It turned out not to be a big deal, the guy who hit us mouthed off and told us we had to be rich. I told him I was rich enough to want his insurance information and suggested he shut up and not make assumptions based on stereotypes.
When I got back in the car grandpa told me not to worry, “I can still swing this cane pretty good. If he had started up with you I would have taken care of him.”
I smiled and told grandpa not to worry.
“Grandpa, did you get a look at that guy? I would have ripped his arm off and beat him silly. He was an older guy who wasn’t ever going to do more than mouth off.”
Grandpa looked at me and said to watch out for the old guy who would kick you in the balls and take your money.
I nodded my head, no point in arguing and said he was right.
Hard Lessons Learning
I tell my dad I am not ready to be the oldest Wilner man and from my side hear “grandpa, we love you. I am not ready for dad to be the old guy either.”
We say our goodbyes and I tell the teen we are in the midst of the hard lessons learning time.
He tells me he understands and asks if grandpa realizes I am not messing around when I talk about how relentless I can be about some things.
“If you think my parents don’t know that about me you need to think again about how much parents know about their children.
There are a ton of stories they don’t know and never will, but my traits and characteristics-they know. Just as mom and I know all sorts of things about you and your sister.
I am not surprised he doesn’t recognize the depth of parental knowledge because it is one of those things you don’t really get until you do it yourself.
These hard lessons keep flying at me.
Unexpected hurdles and roadblocks show up at opportune times demanding attention and I figure we’ll handle them as best we can.
Some things will get done and some will get ignored.
We do what we can, with what we have and that is just how it goes.