My dad was an uber-Christian, and by that I don't mean he was fire and brimstone and Bible quoting. I mean he treated people like they were Jesus himself crossing his path. Often at dinner if one of us was complaining about somebody being an annoying pain in the ass he'd say, "You don't know what kind of load they're carrying."
Eye roll. Heavy sigh.
"For chrissakes, Dad, can you take my side for once?"
He never took our side. He took the side of someone he never met who was giving his kid a hard time because he thought that there wasn't a deliberately mean person in the world. Maybe a person with some worries, health problems, marriage problems, money problems, boss problems, kid problems. Whatever their problem was it was our job to overlook their bad behavior and treat them with kindness.
A mighty tall order.
When I was working in Chicago doing health benefits claims, I often told him about this woman who was always turning bills in that we already paid. She had a short fuse and if you looked at it and said, "Wanda, we've already paid this one," she would tear into you and start arguing. Since I sat at the first desk in the office I often got a direct hit.
"Well, if she's turning in a lot of bills she's probably pretty sick," is all Dad had to say about that.
"Well, I don't feel so good either when she's yelling at me, Dad."
"You're young. You don't know what it's like to never feel good," is what he answered back.
Mom's car was making a rattling sound in the dash and he and Mom took it in. The mechanic called and had the dashboard pulled apart and still couldn't figure it out. Dad was livid. He knew exactly what the problem was and told the mechanic when they dropped it off. If he weren't in the process of dying he could have easily fixed it himself like he did everything around the house. He yelled at the guy about how he was padding the bill and he'd be damned if he was going to pay for that.
I overheard all of this and didn't know whether to cry or give Dad the lecture about how to treat people like he'd done to us a thousand times.
Dad said he was going for a walk around the block. I went to the grocery store. Thirty minutes later I came back and he was just then making his way home.
"I guess I was more tired than I thought," he said when he saw me, as if that and not cancer was the reason it took so long.
"Well, it's pretty hot, Dad. Why don't you just lay down for awhile," I suggested.
"Yeah, I think that's a good idea," he said. "First, though, I need to call the mechanic and apologize. I don't know what got into me."
A few months later Dad closed his eyes for good, and every time Wanda came in I took her bills and told her we'd process them.........even if we already had.