My dad was an impressive looking fellow. At just under 6’5”, wearing his handsome cowboy hat, and with that long legged John Wayne way of walking, he was a sight to behold.
He never imbibed or smoked or used coarse language, but was the life of any party, from birthday to Tupperware. When a current event became a hot topic in the local paper, out came his pen to express an opinion to the editor. His efforts were phrased in poetry. Most of it was tongue-in-cheek hilarious.
In the South, we say he was “full of himself.” His best material came straight out of his daily activities. When I was twelve, he married a smart and kind lady who was the perfect Edith to his Archie-ness. She was a very intelligent and capable nurse at work, but once at home, she was the source of endless good-natured kidding. She says she loved being his main character.
She readily admitted domestic endeavors were not her forte, especially cooking. This was his green light to use the old standby about supper being ready when the smoke alarm went off. Often, this was true. He loved to tell people about the terrific socks she had knit for him. “They turned out just great,” he bragged, “except they were a little snug under the arms.”
His new pair of trousers was too long so his faithful and supportive “Edith” assured him, yes, she knew how to shorten them and they would look just fine. Not really knowing how that process worked, it seemed most feasible to her to cut them off above the cuffs, then cut off another few inches, then sew the cuffs back on. That way, she reasoned, they looked so tailored.
Dad worked in land real estate. He had a client who wanted to walk over several acres of some property with him to check on boundaries. Dapper in his Stetson and every inch the expert, Dad happily tramped around the available acreage with the interested buyer.
For some reason, he happened to look down at his shoes .He could hardly believe what he saw. To his utter amazement, his cuffs had fallen off! Never having been in this exact predicament before, he did the only thing he could think of, which was to reach down, pick them up, put them in his pocket and keep walking. He felt no need to explain.
False pride can get in the way of a genuine witness. A good insight full of humor neutralizes embarrassment and awkwardness. Taking things in stride shows a confidence that is very attractive. None of us are exempt from stumbles, bumbles, falters, trips, or slips. Generally, our response reflects an obvious level of understanding and maturity.
Dad believed there was no need to have a heart attack over every little misstep in the human bungle-jungle. Some events are merely little blips on life’s screen and do not require a full-blown CPR code- blue.
Many considered my merry father and his spousal sidekick a great source of comedic relief. Their sensible counsel to stop fretting over every hangnail and blooper could put things squarely in perspective.
Once, when I should have zigged my spiffy yellow Lemans, I zagged instead, and received a noticeable dent from a car that tried desperately to avoid this jarring encounter. I called home, crying and blubbering the details. Dad’s calm, soothing comment was, “Well, as you know, life is just full of little problems. It is only a car. You’re safe. It can be fixed. What’s for supper?”
One Sunday, while passing the collection plate at Church, Mr. “ usually unruffled” became a little discomfited when he touched his face and realized he had forgotten to shave. On many occasions, but not this one, he used an electric razor as he tootled down the road, singing Tennessee Ernie Ford hymns. He claimed it saved time.
Up and down, back and forth he went. Up close and personal to the whole congregation, he had concern that he resembled a boxcar hobo. Scripture says pride goes before the fall. Dad could barely tell the punch line to this true story without breaking himself up laughing at this revealing picture of his own importance in God’s work.
When he returned to the counting place to take stock of the flock offerings, he felt something strange hanging out of the sleeve of his coat. Since his bride had yet to discover anti-static sheets for the dryer, it could have been worse. What he pulled out was a black sock. Not shaving wasn’t even in the same league with wearing footwear on your wrist as you discharged your parish collection duty. He put it in his ever-ready pocket, and swallowing giggles, returned to the service.
Healthy pride in our appearance, our homes, our children, and our heroes can be a positive. The pride that is drawn from conceit, arrogance, vanity, or an over estimation of our great piety may color the ability to cope with the silliness of most real life situations. Perhaps there would be less need to treat stress and depression if up-coming generations learned the art of picking up the cuffs and socks from misplaced efforts and putting them where they belong, in God’s pocket.
The Lord called this giant of a man home. For days before departure, he contacted friends and family to bid them farewell, then with mortal business done, died with dignity and class, happily expecting to see Jesus face to face. He knew what was important in the scheme of earthly things of no lasting consequence. At the same time, he was blessed with an inborn ability to defuse the pride of self-righteousness, anger, condensation or patronage with his special brand of humor.
Even now, it never fails. When we bump into folks who were touched by him, they begin laughing, eager to share a story. They usually start the conversation with, “Remember when he…?”