When I was a boy. An immature boy. I had no idea of what real adult love was like. And I had no idea of how my own cruelty would stay with me, permastamped in my memory.
This is a story of the boy I was.
And the man that my father was.
It was Christmas. I had bought, probably with my mother’s assistance, my father a pair of slippers. I am convinced that, if not for slippers, fathers may never get a gift. Anyways, they were wrapped and put under the tree. On Christmas morning my brother and I woke to a bounteous harvest of presents under the boughs of the tree.
I remember little of the gifts that I got, or the dinner that we ate, or the activities of the day. I remember only one scene. It was of my father opening my gift and putting on the slippers. I was delighted by the fact that they fit perfectly. My father expressed how he’d never had a pair of slippers fit quite so well.
I was chuffed.
I noticed when Dad got up to go to the kitchen that it looked like the slippers were much too tight. When he sat down, he took them off and discovered that there was paper tucked into the toe of each slipper. He pulled them out and I laughed at him. I thought him silly. I thought him dumb. How could he have not noticed that the paper was in the slippers. I acted like an arrogant, foolish, bully. My dad said nothing of my behaviour, but I remember the look in his eyes when he looked from the slipper to me.
It was only later that I realized that my father had pretended a good fit to please me. He wanted me to feel happy about the gift that I gave him. He wanted me to have a good Christmas and so he put up with a bad fit, he was acting gracious and kind.
And I mocked him.
As an adult I understand how, sometimes the gift we want to give to others is our appreciation, our gratitude, even if the fit is a bit tight.
As an adult I understand why my father did what he did.
And because I understand that, I understand how mean and stupid I was in response to my father.
But I learned.
The pain I feel for having been that boy at that moment has taught me something.
About how to be a good man.