For Someone Who’s Supposed to Be So Smart… Ways in Which I’m Stupid

My father has a way with words. Now, he’d be the first to tell you that with my mother around, he doesn’t get much chance to talk. “She talks enough for the both of us,” I heard more than once. And yes, Mom could at times serve as the prototype for Chatty Cathy.

Dad didn’t talk at length, the way she did. So when he spoke, his pronouncements carried more weight. Sometimes we almost jumped when he spoke because it was unexpected, another country heard from.

And of course, he was DAD. I grew up at the time when “Wait ‘til your father gets home” had serious meaning, and you’d really, really rather suffer Mom’s discipline than Dad’s. (Although her line, “I’m so disappointed in you,” did carry a stinging power. I want to know how to sink that same emotional hook deep into the guts of my two daughters so I can tug on it when I need to.)

Some of Dad’s memorable pronouncements fall into the category of folksy sayings, like “Whatever smokes your drawers.”
Another line of his—possibly reserved for me personally among his six children: “For someone who’s supposed to be so smart, you don’t have much horse sense.”
This pronouncement was not without merit, I have to admit.

One summer I had the use of Middle Older Brother’s Datsun pick-up while he traveled for work. Somehow the whole idea of adding oil to the engine had never been made clear to me. The engine seized up once and for all on I-90 as I merrily zoomed eastward to go hang out at Lake Coeur d’Alene.

A passing semi-truck driver gave me a lift (this was in pre-cell-phone days, of course) and I called my parents for rescue. The engine was toast. This was the kind of episode that might induce the unfavorable comparison to four-legged hay burners.

I’m a little better at routine vehicle fluids now (although Sweet Husband takes care of it for me, I do know it’s supposed to happen and I had my car serviced regularly before he was on the scene). There are still some ways in which I lack horse sense though:
  • Leaving valuables in plain sight on the front seat. I believe most people are honest, and so far no one has broken into the car to take anything. Someday I will be wrong about this.
  • Being quite sure that even when the fuel indicator is on the red line, I have enough fuel to get to the next available gas station. So far, this has been true. Good thing I mostly commute by bike or bus.
  • Doing “one more thing” before leaving for something: Work, a meeting, a date, a doctor’s appointment for one of the girls. I know-know-KNOW that when I squeeze in one more e-mail response or chore I make us all late. I know that. But surely there’s time for just one more thing?
  • Believing against all evidence of the past that the regular consumption of giant snickerdoodles (only ones baked perfectly so they’re still bendy in the middle, of course) has no effect on my weight.
  • Thinking that since there’s plenty of time before the project is due, I don’t need to start now. (Love the adrenaline arising from artificially induced deadline pressure through procrastination--and there are always a lot of things on the list that do have to happen before the deadline for this item.)
  • Failing to write down things that family members tell me about appointments and tasks, despite the fact that I do this faithfully at work and for all volunteer efforts. I have notebooks stretching back over 5 years, a simple system of stick-ums to flag items for follow-up, and a fairly systematic use of Outlook calendar and tasks to move things along. Family items, not so much, & thus I forget plans and projects that involve my loved ones.
Looking at this list, I notice a continued carelessness toward vehicles (possibly scarred by that little Datsun episode). Definitely a disregard for the passage of time as measured by standard devices, which after all are made by humans and have little to do with the actual workings of the universe. Perhaps a certain childlike belief in magical thinking.

It’s not that I lack horse sense, Dad—it’s that I believe in fairies. I do believe, I do believe, I do I do I do.

1 comment :

  1. What about the other theme of forgetting that whole FAMILY thing? You didn't see that? I know you did, mother!


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