Why I Will Never Be Like My Father

I was seven years old when my father and the neighbors behind us agreed to put up a new fence. The old one had already been there for a good 20 years and it was rotting all the way down to the ground.

I was a little rowdy kid who didn’t like to wear shoes much. Especially when I was outside. I always liked the feeling of the cold green grass gushing between my toes and underneath the sole of my foot, where I had no arch.

After they tore down the fence, there were rotten nails and old debris spread all over the place. To a seven year old it was a war zone, but adults were never scared of things like this.

My father warned me several times to go and put some shoes on before coming outside. But I am stubborn and I never listened to such obnoxious things. I had gone outside a gazillion times and nothing had ever happened. And I made up my stubborn little mind that this time would be no different — a stubborn child is one thing, but a stubborn and fearless child is something completely different.

I was running back and forth for a while, teasing the war zone with my naïve, childish gestures and laughter spawned from innocence. I took one step too far and the flat sole of my foot met a sharp rusty nail that went straight through the arch that wasn’t there.

The pain was unbearable… and not just for a seven-year old. I still get chills thinking about this. And as I write, goose bumps rise. The size of the nail is probably a story for another day, but it wasn’t an ordinary size. And a not-so-ordinary size nail going into a small child’s foot makes for an extreme case of chaos. (The nail was actually not that big, but to me it was sort of like having the top half of the Titanic plunging through one end of my skin.)

I screamed so loud I was sure all of the neighbors, as well as their grown children living halfway across the country, could hear my plea.

Immediately my father dropped what he was doing and came running to my rescue. It was almost instinctually. Like he knew what was going to happen so he was able to get a head start, trying to get to me as quickly as he could.

He came to me and hovered over me like an angel. He scooped me up, as if I weighed nothing and there was no gravity. He carried me calmly into the house. While he was carrying me I remember indistinct chatter coming from the parts of him that were zealously waiting to say: “I told you so.” But still he was calm, like always. He didn’t scorn me. He only spoke in soft, but stern tones.

My father has a certain mild air of austerity about him that really seems to transcend into all that he does. But there was never any need for him to raise his voice, unless he really had to.

He took me inside and sat me gently on the couch. I don’t really remember crying because I think I was concentrating too much on the pain… so my mind wasn’t occupied with the natural impulse to ball my eyes out. But in retrospect, I think it was because somewhere in my subconscious I was thinking about making sure my father knew that I could be strong; that I could be strong just like him.

My mother was probably in the background somewhere, standing behind him, shouting things like “Take her to the doctor!” or “Emergency room!” But he still remained calmed, not really saying much. He grabbed my foot, lifted it up and started tugging at the nail in attempt to pull it out. When he finished I remember seeing blood and the next thing I know my foot was wrapped in old brown gauze that we always kept laying around the house.

And that was it. No doctor, no medication, no surgery. Just a father’s daring pursuit to fight for his child and to get a job done.

This story is just a piece of the many best parts of my father. When I recollect this event in my mind, I realize it told me everything about who he is, and who he has always been.

When I was younger, there were so many things that I thought I already knew. And I can’t begin to count the times I regret not taking my father’s advice on certain things. But now, in my adult years, I’m realizing that life is a lot like that nail that went into my foot. You can dabble in and out of things; and wander; and be curious; and take risks. (Hell you’re supposed to do all of these things).

But, inevitably, blind ambition does breed error. And when you make errors, (like sticking rusty nails in your foot), it’s nice to have someone there to carry you inside. For many years, my father was my carrier. And now that I’m older, I’m able to carry myself. But I can only dream about the day when I bare children, and I wonder if I will ever be as good to them as he was to me. Although it’s possible, the chances are quite slim.

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