Friday, March 12, 2010

Brother can you spare a dime?

Are you the type of person who doesn’t ask for anything? You have that feeling that if you accept something from someone you owe something in return and you don’t want to be indebted. Or, you just don’t want to bother someone because their act of kindness that should make you feel good inside would only fall short because you felt they had gone to some trouble, over you, and that would make you fell like a nuisance.
So, possibly you’ve developed an “I’ll make it on my own” type of existence. “I’ll do without,” is what you tell yourself, “If I can’t afford it, I don’t need it,” as if it’s a penance, to do without and show the world you're on your own.
Have you ever then swallowed your pride and accepted a gift or money for the baby’s dippers, or rent, or Christmas for your kids? How about that yearbook or class ring for your kid or that present you wanted so much for someone you love so dear?
When did those feeling of not asking for anything begin to emerge?
For me it began when I was thirteen years old, my parents had divorced after separating twice and I was happy just to see my father, a weekend day, and a situation that had him missed quite often. He had a very good job and the courts had him paying child support for my older sister and I. My brother had reached eighteen and past the threshold for giving money because of one’s sperm.
Every two weeks the child support check was due. I remember it was one hundred and eighty dollars every two weeks for two slightly teenage children living with their single parent mother. The exact cost is seared in my brain because often my sister or I had to ask for the check.
We would take turns asking so we could even out the uncomfortable humiliation that we knew was inevitable. We knew he would write the check it was just that at that point we both learned that it wasn’t fun asking for something even though it was ours and even deserved it.
We would never do this as the first thing when he picked us up on Saturday, we knew we would spend a great day together doing the things that kids love to do, going to a skating rink, seeing the latest movies, or eating at fast food restaurants and we didn’t want to spoil the time. My sister and I enjoyed the cool things we got to do with my father and because my mother couldn’t afford it and had to work on Saturdays we never wanted to make waves. That’s a divorced fathers luxury if he chooses to take it.
My mother hated asking us to ask for the check and we were mature enough to know she needed it but still, I’m sure she felt that he should remember. That fact that it cost him less in the long run should have reminded him. He had mayonnaise, ketchup and bachelor crap in a refrigerator, inside a trailer with minimal furniture that wasn’t in the best part of town. He couldn’t have been paying more if we weren't living with him but that is only thinking in hindsight. Sometimes we’d even lie and say we forgot to ask for the check. My mother knew and this went on for two more years.
I was now fifteen could drive and although the every weekend pattern of going to his former home had subsided because of our age and changed lives I still relished his company very much.
It was one Saturday that we were in his new home with his new young wife, my day with him had come to an end and it was time to ask for “The Check.”
We were sitting at the kitchen table; talking I guess and I said it was time to get back home. As I got up to leave I was thinking to myself, “Please, dad remember the check, remember the check, remember the check.”
Walking to the door in the process of saying goodbye he said, “OK Son, well, it was great to see you. You’re always welcome here”
As he hugged me I said, “I love you dad.”
He said, “I love you too, son.”
Now, next to the door I had the feeling I would not hear the much-anticipated words, “Oh! Here give this to your mother,” I turned around and said, apologetically, “Mom asked me to ask you for the check.”
He gave a ‘tis” sound, shook his head and walked to his desk which was in the room next to the foyer. He abruptly pulled his checkbook from the right top draw, and started writing the check. That’s when I heard the words that changed my life.
In a mild disgust he wrote down the amount of $180.00, and then, as he wrote out, on the check, the obligatory words, “one hundred and eighty dollars” he said without picking up his head, “Sometimes I think this is the only reason you come here.”
My heart fell into my stomach and I blinked real hard and when I opened my eyes he was singing the last part of his name. It felt like a gut punch as he pulled the check away from the stub and handed it to me.
Not wanting to take the hit, I said, “I’m sorry Dad, Mom asked for it”
He said, “Aw, don’t worry about. You kids are good kids.”
He walked me to the door, we hugged again and I left. All was forgotten except the fact that when I got back to the car I swore I would never ask anyone for anything again.

Some moments are defining in ones life and that was one for me. I don’t mind accepting gifts from people. I enjoy getting gifts. It lets me know they like me and as some might say I need to be liked. Plus, I like having more stuff.
Acts of kindness toward me thrill the hell out of me and when I accept a gift I don’t think that person has an ulterior motive. Although you should be careful of the people who give you stuff and then constantly tell you about it.
I once heard my father who has given me many gifts since then, complain about my mother’s father who he said “would give you the shirt off his back.” My mother’s father would have. But, the end of my dad’s complaint was “But he’s going to let you know about every time.”
Now I don’t remember my grandfather ever throwing any acts of kindness into anyone’s face. Maybe that was my father’s self-consciousness of leaving his wife and three kids but I certainly understand the concept and that’s the freaking rub.
I can accept anything you want to give me whole-heartedly, ever so accepting, graciously wanting, and extremely thankful, but don’t throw it in my face. Don’t you realize that I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need it? That I haven’t deep down dug into my soul and ask you because I think first you might have what I’m asking for and second you might give it to me, and now third you won’t need it back anytime soon?
Of course you have to know whom you want to loan things to and whom you don’t and the first rule of lending to a friend is don’t. But please consider this, most people don’t want to ask and most really don’t want you to give it to them.

No comments:

Post a Comment