My husband was gone on an extended business trip and the yard was looking neglected. I put on some old jeans and headed to the garage. Poured some gas in the mower, grabbed the plastic bar and tugged. Nothing. Tugged again...and flashed back to an earlier time...
"Again!" His voice was coarse, demanding. My girlfriend bent her scrawny body over the mower and pulled the starter with all of her might. Nothing. The cord snapped back into the engine. "Pull harder!" her father insisted. I held my breath and watched. She anchored her foot, jerked the cord. Nothing. "Do. It. Again." Katie looked up at her dad and cried out, "I can't do it." I believed her. This was not the first time for me to see this interaction between the two of them. I'd gone home and asked my dad if I could start the mower. He narrowed his eyes at me like I was asking to juggle steak knives, turned and walked away without answering. I was thirteen, just like she was. Katie let me try one day when we were alone in her garage. I was slightly bigger than she was, thought I was stronger. I couldn't do it, I couldn't start the mower no matter how hard I tugged.
Her father pulled the cord and the machine rumbled to life. She guided it outside where 3/4 of an acre waited for her. Katie could not stand upright to mow the grass, she leaned into the handle, pushed with her small frame. If she stumbled in the yard, lost her grip, the mower would die and she would be forced to try to start it again.
When we played alone in her room, Katie whispered that she had the meanest dad in the world. I thought so too. It wasn't uncommon for him to show up at the door frame and insist that it was time to do chores. She would beg for me to wait in her room... he would tell me in his gruff voice that it was time to go home. Unusual chores. Like working on the car and making home repairs. Nothing like the dusting I did. Meanest dad ever.
Are you getting the picture? Maybe not.
Let me tell you what that same scene looks like through the eyes of a... doctor.
Katie's dad had a perpetual frown and one eye squinted, which if you are a child, gave him the look of an evil pirate. He walked with a limp, his voice was rough.
He'd had a stroke.
He died by the time Katie was in high school, when he was still a young man.
He knew was going to die. He was preparing her in the only way he knew how to. Can you imagine?
Here's to fathers that work to make their children strong. For whatever comes their way.