"Don't force!" was the oft-repeated lesson of my wife's late father.
Seems to defy the zeitgeist, doesn't it?
Good advice nonetheless.
A couple of weeks ago I was trying to get enough of the hose off the porch to wash away some dog diarrhea from the yard. Trust me when I say there was no mechanical means of removing it. Well, I have the hose on the porch to water the big pots in which I have planted peppers, tomatoes, flowers---it usually sits coiled up like a well-behaved serpent in my wooden planked garden. So I don't normally have to pull it down the stairs.
While pulling it down the stairs it got stuck, and before I gave it a good hard yank, I should have remembered two things:
1. Don't force!
2. Rubber hoses are good for 3 things: conveying fluids, roughing up suspects, and acting as drive belts.
Instead I remembered one thing:
1. Hulk smash!
The hose acted like a belt, rolling one of the super huge pots containing little pepper sprouts right off the porch and down the steps.
Plant triage and emergency treatment was required. It was a messy job and it took so long my wife was wondering where I'd wandered off to. Ultimately I got every little plantling back in the dirt, and I think I saved them all. Why? Because I was very careful with them. I didn't force.
My father-in-law was a good man of good advice. My own father was a good man of no good advice. I don't know why, but my father was completely incapable of using his language skills to convey instruction. He could not teach anyone anything. Or maybe it was just his uninterested children that caused him to lose heart. Maybe in a work environment he was teaching people to do things left and right. But I doubt it---most people wouldn't have known it, but I think he was a shy man at heart.
My mom said when I was very small I would follow my father around, pulling up the ol' pants just the way he always did, probably just to be like him. So that was one thing I learned from him.
My father taught me many things by the way he did them himself. He taught me his strong work ethic, he taught me to shun debt, he taught me (as it said in the Bible he did not believe, Proverbs 22:29) that men skilled in their labor will stand before kings. I wish he'd taught me things like how to put on a new engine belt or install a new electrical outlet without killing myself, but I wouldn't have been listening anyway, probably. One thing he showed without putting into words: Don't force. Sometimes you need that little push of adrenaline for a heavy job, but even so, it's only in movies that we do things better when we're angry.
I miss my dad today, and my wife's dad. Sometimes I still feel like a boy in a man's body. But when I do behave like a man ought to, it's because I followed the example of those who came before me.
Happy Father's Day.