Monday, November 08, 2004

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

Jake knows the cycle of injury, penitence, and forgiveness, mostly through the first two stages. He smacks Billy’s hand with the butt of his light saber, Billy starts to writhe in pain. Jake, wearing the expression of the righteous avenger for some (usually wholly imagined) wrong done against him by Billy, still nevertheless manages to limp into a slightly penitent expression of sorrow, and squeaks out the word “sorry”, with the second syllable drawn out and emphasized. Then there is a pause, during which Billy might still be trying to catch his breath between cries. But pauses will not do, and they only make Jake regret his bowing in sorrow before his brother. He has fulfilled his two parts in the cycle – caning Billy and saying he was sorry – and Billy must grant forgiveness without delay. But he doesn’t.

Jake’s face turns to pure rage, and he moves toward Billy as if to strike him and screams “Sorry” again, only all humility and penitence is gone from his tone of voice; instead, the tone betrays his thinking – “You deserved it you swine – how dare you not grant forgiveness to me the split second I offer my regrets.” Who is Billy to keep Jake waiting for a wholesale forgiveness by simply saying “that’s OK.” Sure, he might be busy trying to make a tunicate out of his t-shirt to stop the bleeding, but that is no excuse. The second scalding “sorry” is followed progressively by more harsh and aggressive apologies, each one of which signals a smaller window of time for Billy to express he bears no grudge. The second followed the first by at least four seconds, but each successive one comes closer in time.

When Jake is the wronged party, he either responds with violence or the pronouncement that he doesn’t like his assailant and that said assailant is “tupid.” Sometimes he’ll just spit. The most comedic circumstance I usually find myself in occurs when taking my three little charges into a public bathroom. Recently, Joey was standing at the one urinal with his back to Jake’s side; he decided that he needed to be sitting rather than standing, quickly abandoned the urinal, and started for the stall in a hurry. On his way, he blind-sides Jake, who falls to the floor; as he is getting up, Billy moves up to Joey’s old urinal. When Jake finally gets to his feet, he naturally looks to find his assaulter at the urinal – and poor innocent Billy is protesting his innocence (while keeping careful aim) as Jake pronounces his dislike for Billy, his assessment of Billy’s general intelligence, and finally adding a little spit for good measure that never goes beyond his own chin. Once I correct Jake, and point out that it was Joey rather than Billy, rather than apologize to Billy, he repeats his routine with Joey.

While we are on the topic of bathroom humor, Mom recently pointed out to Billy, whose daily bathroom routine of late has required more effort than it should, that he needs to be eating more fruits and veggies to ease the strain. Billy is no idiot, so one day later, with voice strained, we hear from the bathroom “Can someone please bring me a vegetable?”

One last story that has absolutely no connection to the above, but proves the inadequacy of fatherly supervision. While in Myrtle Beach, on one of the afternoons after playing golf, I am left to watch the kids in the condo. I put them down for a nap, and head for the balcony overlooking the ocean to read. The twins are in the front room, furthest from where I am, and the entrance to our condo is through their room. Jake is in a different room closer to me, and I close off the door so that the twins, who are just as likely to use the beds as trampolines rather than nap, don’t disturb Jake. I forget to lock the front door to the condo. Tom, one of my playing partners, comes bounding up a stairwell that opens right in front of our condo, and finds Joey holding the small fire extinguisher with hand on trigger, and Billy actively trying to pull out the safety pin. Asked by Tom what the two were doing, both turned, looked at Tom, and responded in sync “nothing.” Me – I was completely oblivious to my two little fire fighters.


Blogger pbryon said...

A good life lesson. As in most professional sports, the instigator gets away with it, while the one who responds to prevocation is the one that gets the yellow flag, 2 mintues, personal foul, etc.!

11:08 AM  

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