We had an incident Friday. It got so bad that we had to leave the gym. It all started like this: my four-and-a-half-year-old daughter wanted to watch a movie when she got home from camp. She picked “Santa Paws,” which I couldn’t believe was still in play. Because she’ll read/watch/wear Christmas stuff at any time of year (just like her grandma), I’ve taken care to pack up ALL Christmas stuff together for storage in January. But she found the movie I left behind. I played it for her. After all, I told myself, I wouldn’t be watching it. I had to make coleslaw for a potluck.
When you’re a parent, you’ve got to learn to let go. Not just when your kid goes off to sleep-away camp for the first time, or drives the car by herself. Long before that – you’ll need to let go early and often.
My daughter is in preschool. She’s four-and-a-half, well, four-and-three-quarters, really. She should be entering kindergarten this year, but she can’t. She’s got all the academic skills. She can write her name; she’s learning how to read and she can count and do simple math. She can sit still and pay attention, which is another big requirement, and she gets along with all the kids.
Well, my dad won his lawsuit. He got three quarters of the figure he wanted. Three quarters of the other driver’s insurance maximum.
“I’m hurt for life,” the 83-year-old told me. “I didn’t think I’d get it all, but I guess I’m satisfied with this.”
He didn’t get the $225,000 settlement his friend at the senior center got, and he still envies that guy. He told me all about him.
“This guy’s got all this money but he only spends nickels and dimes – nothing big.”
That’s right. My dad, who quibbled with the insurance company for six months over groceries in a trunk, is calling this guy cheap. What’s big to my dad? The man complains that he didn’t get his money’s worth when he has a ten-dollar meal — soup, salad and entree.
“He never married. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. It’s sad. He’s got nothing to look at.”
That’s what a woman is to my father? Something to look at? I don’t even know how to begin. So I won’t.
“He buys his clothes secondhand. His pants don’t fit,” said the man who wears the same ill-fitting outfit for days.
According to my dad, this guy’s got more money than he can fit under one mattress. “His brother died and left him his car and his house. He got the settlement because he got hit by two cars that were racing. The cars weren’t registered and the owner was politically connected so they paid him off to cover it up.”
Looks like the guy’s not keeping up his end of the deal.
“He talks incessantly,” my dad went on. “He grabs food from the center to take home,” said the man with 22 Wendy’s salad dressing packets in his fridge. “People like that, who are overly tight, I just don’t care for.”
Even though we don’t Skype, I have to keep a straight face during these calls or he’ll hear the editorial mirth in my voice.
“I saw him at the Chinese buffet, coming in the side door,” he continued. “The manager caught him going in. I didn’t say hello or get involved. But after that, I asked him if he still goes there on Mondays, and he said he switched to different days, probably because that manager isn’t on duty then. It’s terrible when people take advantage of the system,” says the man who wanted a car insurance company to pay for his lost steaks.
“He cuts his own hair with a razor and he messes it up. It looks like a home job. He’s got the ten dollars to spend on a professional haircut,” said the man whose wife cut his hair for 20 years. And where is this ten-dollar haircut he speaks of? I pay thirty just for one kid.
Is it possible that this guy is cheaper than my father? Is it possible that anyone’s cheaper than my father? I think what’s behind my dad’s derision is envy. He thinks that this guy spends less than he does and he wishes he could too. Well, it’s not all bad. The more cheap tricks my dad learns from this guy, the more I’ll have to write about.
A few weeks ago, I called my dad. Sometimes I put him on speaker phone just for comic value. This was one of those times.
We were talking about his personal injury lawsuit. Yep. Wouldn’t put it past him, right? A year ago, a woman driver slipped on a wet road and hit him head-on. He had already stopped and she’d slowed considerably.
I used to be tough. A long time ago — before therapy and marriage(s) and children. Back in high school, every move I made, everyone I befriended or didn’t, everything I wore was part of an attempt to be tough. And I succeeded. I was pretty tough in high school. So was my crowd.
But I grew up – my whole crowd did. And as we did, we shed those protective layers. As we surrounded ourselves with safe people, we shed the need for the protection that was once so vital.