In Any Degree . . .
"Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well" Mahatma Gandhi
I must confess, there are those occasions when life around this house gets the best of me, and I am left pleading for forgiveness. The culprit on those occasions are my thoughts; thoughts which, beginning in the back of my mind, develop with such force, that they create their own gravitational force, twisting and grappling the polarity of my mind that on a sudden they appear, front and center, playing out like the encore of a Broadway play!
If any of you have witnessed, read, or sensed these got-the-best-of-me moments “in any degree,” I apologize.
Most often, these thoughts, which involve me being embarrassed by the actions of my son, (for instance, here's another) are brief and can be flushed away with a quick, yet painful, swallowing of pride.
Other thoughts must be dealt with more forcefully. These rare, but devastatingly more painful, thoughts seem to spring up suddenly, out of nowhere, like noxious weeds. Having laid in wait below the sun lit surface of one’s soul for just the right time, they burst through indiscriminately, vying only for the opportunity to steal the nourishment intended elsewhere, and if left unattended, to spread their ruinous seed. These encroaching thoughts find the weakest points in the armor, through which the most bitter of thoughts grow, and no simple swallowing of pride, will allow the acrid thought of “Why me?” to be washed away.
Sunday night, was a bitter night!
Dinner was ready, and the family was called downstairs. Michael asked if Jimmy Merrill—a close friend, our former Bishop, and present member of our Stake Presidency, who was coming by to take Michael to visit some families—could eat with us. Certainly, we had plenty. An extra place was set, and we waited for his imminent arrival.
As we finished setting the table, and awaited the corn muffins in the oven, Ethan sat patiently at the table. Before him was a plate of 18 dinosaur chicken nuggets (FYI – out of the blue, the company changed the recipe back and our self-imposed 2-year ban on these ended), microwaved, cut, and awaiting the deluge of ketchup. Emma took her seat next to Ethan, which started a tirade of “Emma’s trying to kill me” outbursts. I asked Emma to move over one seat, in hopes the “kill mes” would die off. She did, and Michael took the place next to Ethan, which immediately brought a piercing scream.
Though nearly 19, there are occasional 10-year-old antics which escape from Michael’s lips, and this was such a case. As Ethan’s shrill cut through what had been a pleasant Sunday evening, I turned to see Michael smirking, and mumbling something about, “What? I just...”
Then it happened…
(This particular Forbidden had appeared on the radar of Ethan’s vocabulary only a week ago. We had yet to identify its source—until now—but it had quickly risen on the list taking a close second only behind O.M.G.!)…Dad, Emma is trying to kill me. I’m going to kick her @#$!
As I moved across the kitchen to correct this, Michael headed to the door, where the chime of the bell signaled the arrival of our dinner guest. Just in the nick of time; our moment of crisis had come and gone, before Jimmy’s arrival.
I don't think so!
As I quietly spoke to Ethan, Michael directed Jimmy towards our kitchen table. I stepped backed, greeted our guest and then proceeded to take the corn muffins from the oven.
...Dad, I said I’m going to kick Emma’s @, #, $!
Yeah, spelling it doesn’t diminish it on the list, and certainly doesn’t dissuade the pleadings from his mother as she petitions, “Really, come on? Please stop!”
Then, with the realization that the toilet just flushed was going to overflow and you were defenseless to turn off the water supply, or stop the certain flood, it started. Like a stuck needle in a vinyl record, it just kept repeating itself, over, and over, and over, and over!
“Please stop!” his mother begged—the spelling now replaced by the actual word again! I took him by the shoulders, and directed him to walk with me. He turned,
...But Dad, I want to kick her, [you guessed it]!
I froze; for what seemed like an eternity I held my breath and counted, hoping beyond all hope that it would just stop.
It just kept coming, spilling from his mouth like a flood!
We walked to the bathroom, where I consciously turned on the light, and the fan, praying that the sound of the whirling blades would drown out the flood that kept escaping from Ethan’s mouth. Then it happened, my armor cracked, and the vilest of thoughts sprang out:
This was not the logical, suppositioning, allegorical, questioning. That question that delves into the heart of the matter, searching for a source, or a root cause, as one might look for the beginning of the Amazon, or whether the chicken or egg came first. This was the self-centered what-have-I-done-to-deserve-this question that only comes when one looses sight of the end goal, and I realized it immediately!
Though I never asked that bitter question out loud, Ethan must have sensed it, for just as soon as it escaped the shadowy corner in the back of my mind, tears welled up in his eyes, and mine, and he said, “I’m sorry, Dad!’
“Please stop,” I pleaded, “We don’t say those words in this house. It’s ugly!”
I hugged him; absorbing his anxiety. He hugged me; forgiving me.
We stood silently for a few seconds, then stepped out to finish dinner, leaving behind my sin, escaping, spiraling, venting upward, into the night air, and to a familiar darkness . . .