“If you acted like that guy,” I exclaimed to husband Ray, “you’d be dead, and I’d be in jail!”
The cause of my frustration was an encounter with an exceedingly irritating man at a recent meeting. The good thing about the experience is that it made me appreciate the man I have. My friend John once commented about Ray’s and my long-lasting marriage. I said that Ray makes me laugh. A sense of humor and the ability to laugh at oneself are essential to me in a mate. But Ray also has innate integrity and expresses kindness to everyone, especially to children and elderly individuals. You gotta love a guy like that.
Oh, he’s made me hopping mad from time to time, but his behavior never approaches the boorish side. And I have never felt compelled to write the words my great-great-grandmother penned in her journal about her husband: Oh, John, I could take your head off. You don’t know what it would mean to me. The penitentiary, yes, but what a grim satisfaction.
She followed that inky diatribe with a succinct, double underlined sentence: Only idiots and corpses never change their minds.
I wish I knew what my great-great-grandfather did or didn’t do to anger her, but if he behaved like the irritating man I encountered, I’m surprised she didn’t follow through on her threat. She’s the same lady — an early supporter of women’s suffrage — who, three days after promising “to bake a chicken pie toward feeding the people on Election Day,” wrote: If our minister is too conscientious to vote for women’s suffrage, the church may bake its own chicken pie.
I think I would have enjoyed knowing my great-great-grandmother because I suspect she would have reacted to the irritating man exactly as I did. I’m sure she occasionally infuriated a few men of her time as I — generations later and almost always unintentionally — have done. The irritating man I encountered likely would be happy to know that I once so enraged a lawyer representing a neighborhood issue that he made the mistake of telling a couple of guys who like me that he wanted to stake me out on a bed of fire ants. I don’t know how it would feel to be bitten by fire ants, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like it.
As Father’s Day approaches, I am grateful that 99.44 percent (that’s Ivory soap pure) of the men I know are great guys. These are guys who, as Ray did, go to work every day and come home to help with homework or play in the yard with their kids. Our boys still remember the basketball, football and baseball games their dad played with them and other kids from the neighborhood. It’s true that, as a seventh-grader, Butch broke his ankle in one of those backyard football games, while Greg, a second-grader, sported a fat lip after catching a baseball with his mouth. And Ray, himself, separated a thigh muscle in an impromptu game. But he and the boys still regard those injuries as treasured memories of the fun they had together.
Belatedly, I am glad our budget was tight when the boys were young. Today, they likely wouldn’t remember what movies they saw if we had given them money and dropped them off at theaters. But they do remember walking to the library with me and having picnics in the park and they certainly remember all the quality time their dad spent with them.
A generation later, I observed that Tom, my late friend and former neighbor, was Ray’s kind of dad. Tom worked tirelessly to gain custody of his young son and, once he did, built a tall swing with telephone poles that was the envy of every kid and parent in our neighborhood.
So, to those 99.44 percent of really great guys, Happy Father’s Day! And also to the other .56 percent because — while they may be irritating to me — I know their wives and children love them.
— Marsha Henry Goff is a freelance writer in Lawrence whose latest book is “Human Nature Calls.”