One morning after my sixtieth year had already passed me by I sat and reflected on my life. I had retired with a decent pension, raised my children to adulthood without too many issues and had a sufficient number of grandchildren who were well on their way to turning out ok. Yet something tore at my gut, a feeling of discontent that seemed alarming and dismaying. These nagging feelings were leading to feelings of depression and self-loathing. Why would someone with the success of my life feel this way?
Suddenly a thought came to my mind of a theory given life by the objectivism movement of Ayn Rand; “If you saw someone drowning and the only way you could save them was to lose your own life, would you save them”?
All of my life family has joked with me, often calling me “Mr. Do the right thing”. This thought process has dictated how I lived my life, coming to the aid of others when needs arise. I preached this to my heirs, adding that this is part of the golden rule. But now suddenly pondering this I realized that I had given my life to save the life (lives) of others!
Has this always been my mantra? What has happened with my life? There is one incident early in life I believe set the stage for what I have become.
A few facts; first, my father was 52 and my mother 26 when I was born. He had already raised two children to adulthood before I exploded on the scene. I always liked to think that they were the experiments on child rearing and that from his research findings he raised me, the perfect son.
Second, he was never one to spank, he talked. His talks would put me in such tears! I doubt I could have cried harder had he slapped my little rear raw. Disappointment was a common word as his lectures started and then they morphed into proving love and showing respect. I think I began to live in fear of losing love and respect by being disrespectful.
Third, I had great parents who loved me. They of course were not perfect but over all I was raised well, had food, shelter and was loved.
Finally in the darker recesses of my mind I seem to remember a child that was more carefree and outgoing then the child that is burned into my memory. This little one in the shadows may I think may have actually been an extrovert, a personage I could never today imagine myself being.
So the episode I want to bring to light happened in a furniture store, mom wanted new living room furniture so off to the furniture store we traveled. I am not sure of my age but younger, smaller. I seem to remember riding in the rear window of the car that day. So four, maybe five years old?
After choosing the right sofa, chair and recliner, mom, dad and the salesman sat down to finalize the deal. Now this could be a long ordeal because dad would expect something ‘extra’ for a purchase like this. A little kickback if you will. I’m sure the transaction stopped just as a signature was needed at which point Dad would say, “So if I buy this what are you going to throw in”?
The salesman would always act like Dad was from another planet and after much back and forth something would be given to sweeten the deal. As I recall mom got two new end lamps for free that day.
While all this was going on, I was having a grand time. Bouncing on mattresses, trying for fit chairs and loveseats, exploring between the legs of kitchen chairs and crawling commando under the tables. Suddenly I hear my father, “Son! Come here”.
I run over to him not realizing that everything is not ok. As I screech to a halt before he gasps my collar and sits me down.
Next came a speech that I believe broke my spirit and soul. As all of dad’s speeches this one included lots of “Disappointments” and “Respects” and even a large number of “Loves”. My chest heaved as I gasped for air. The tears fell, my sobs got louder. Dad continued. Finally he took me to the car and left my mother to finish the transaction.
The lecture wasn’t over till well after the time we got home. And the fear continued to grow in my gut. My self-worth was shattered. I had become a disappointment. I did not show respect. How could I be loved? I know that night I resigned myself that I would always do the right thing so that I may never cause this again. I would always hide my happiness to gain respect. And most off all I would never put myself out their again.
So this becomes a slippery slope of questions. I mean some of the things I sacrificed for made me happy and I wanted to do them. But how many times could my choices not of had ill effects had I not made them? And from not making them, would there have additional happiness for me that I have lost?
Roy Richard (Coot)
July 15, 2022
Copyright Roy Richard