My father comes back to me in little memories . . .
During my childhood Dad worked as an electrician for General Electric. My two sisters and I often competed for his time and affection.
This one particular evening we discovered Dad in his big, red naugahyde chair with his feet propped up on the matching ottoman. A fierce battle broke out for lap rights. Eventually the pushing and jabbing subsided and we were snuggled up on his lap, warm in our jammies and secure in his arms.
“Dad, tell us a bedtime story! Pleeeez?” we whined.
Dad thought for a moment. “I only know one kind of bedtime story. Not the kind little kids should hear.”
Of course, that made us pester him even more.
“Okay, okay. But I have to warn you. This story is one of my . . . Bedtime Stories for Juvenile Delinquents.
Ooooh! Juvenile delinquents!
For you readers who might not be familiar with the term, in those days a juvenile delinquent was the worst form of teenager you could possibly become. Think fast cars, motorcycle chains, and switchblades. Bad, bad, bad. None of us wanted to become THAT. You also need to realize it was a time when children weren’t exposed to harsh realities and violence the way they are today. Probably the worst we could imagine was Lassie failing to get help in time.
After a few story-telling sessions my sisters and I learned that Dad’s Bedtime Stories for Juvenile Delinquents followed a perverse formula that delighted the heck out of our young and innocent minds. The characters in these stories were always sweet animals living an idyllic life in their natural setting. Through no fault of their own, or perhaps through their own ignorance, these unsuspecting creatures invariably met a sudden demise so swift and cruel it took our breath away. And we loved it!
Quiet and still, we listened as Dad told the story.
“Once there was a flock of starlings. These starlings were like a huge family, flying above the towns and fields, swooping down to drink out of streams and to eat bugs out of people’s yards. When they were full, they liked to sit together on a wire, singing and enjoying each other’s company.
It was a good life for everybody.
One day they were all on the line. It was pretty crowded up there but they were happy to be together, shoulder-to-shoulder, enjoying the light rain on their feathers. A few were taking a little snooze. After a while, along came one more starling. He kept flying about the others, trying to find a spot for himself. Eventually one of the starlings jostled the starling next to him to make room, and this last bird settled himself on the line.
Well, every starling had to move just a little bit. This caused the bird on the end to come in contact with the transformer which sent electricity flowing through the birds down the line.
Pop. Pop. Pop-pop. Pop-pop-pop . . . .”
We waited a moment. Dead quiet. Then realization hit us . . . . “Oh, Daddy, that’s terrible! What an awful story!” we screamed in mock horror. “How could you! You should be ashamed of yourself!” Soon we were laughing and begging for another one of his “horrible” Bedtime Stories for Juvenile Delinquents.
Several years later Dad’s story of the starlings spoke to me. A small act by one may impact the lives of many. Think before you act.
Aesop’s got nothing on MY dad.
Fathers. Everyone should have a good one.