Recently, I attended a picnic at my friend’s house. I got relief from the heat in heavenly air conditioning as I helped her to carry-out some trays of food. While inside, I heard a car arrive. It was the grandparents of the children whose parents were hosting the picnic. I was stunned as, from the sliding glass door, I saw the grandfather struggle to get to the house. His baby steps allowed him to cover just inches at a time as his son helped him. I heard he had been seriously ill, and his arms displayed the tattoos that were dark bruises from IVs. His face was fully crimson as he struggled to reach the glass storm door. Clear tubes connected him to an oxygen tank that his wife managed behind him. As he got closer, I looked into his piercing blue eyes and saw nothing but determination. If he could have spoken, he would have voiced his deep commitment to see his family at one final picnic before he died.
As he stepped through the doorway into the living room, his 10 year old grandson spun around in a burgandy Lazy Boy chair and said, “Hi, Grandpa,” but made no move to get up. This cushy chair was the only reachable piece of furniture near the door that Grandpa could get to before collapsing from his immense struggle to enter the house. I waited for it to be said, but heard nothing. I tried to keep quiet, but couldn’t. Eventually, in my most stern teacher’s voice, I took a step towards the grandson, who was still swiveling in the Lazy Boy. I said, “Jason, you get out of that chair this moment and let your grandfather sit down!” Immediately, I knew I had crossed a boundary by speaking to someone else’s child this way, but I couldn’t stop myself.
Jason squished his tan face into defiance and stared back at me with wide brown eyes. He exclaimed, “I was here, first!”
As if slapped across the face, I opened my mouth in shock and looked from his face back two steps behind me where his mother was wiping her hands on a dishtowel containing sunflowers. Inside, I’m thinking, “Okay, now she’s going to let Jason have it!’
The mother's face turned to stone as she put her right hand on her hip and said, “He’s right. Jason had that chair first!” Then, her raised eyebrows asked me how I dared to talk to her son that way.
I was raised by a schizophrenic, catatonic, psychopath and yet every hair would be ripped from my head if I ever failed to give my seat to an elder, a pregnant woman, or a disabled person. What is Jason learning? Who will pass down our society's basic courtesies in the future?
Crazy, Mom, thank you for all you did right. Maybe a kick in the rear is a good thing every now and then. The truth is that there are probably no bad children or bad dogs, only bad trainers.