My post on Mary Winkler really stirred things up yesterday, in ways I did not expect. It really was just supposed to be an academic exercise in demographics; a field of study which I really enjoy. But, the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. There was unexpected hostility from some quarters, and from others I had expected much hostility, but received reasoned and thoughtful responses. It was probably the most topsy turvy response to any post I’ve ever written.
But, sometimes God takes some silliness that we intend, and uses it for His own purposes to teach us. I want to take a step back and learn a few things. I’ll probably have several heart to hearts with newscoma. Not long ago, someone used a term about me that stung to the bone: infantile. In other words, if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Being a grown man, thinking I’m somewhat intelligent, that hurt horribly. No man like to be condescended to. However, I’m slowly starting to think it’s an appropriate word. Let me explain.
My father is a big bear of a man. Six foot seven, around 240 lbs most of his life. He was a machinist, which at the time was both a very technical job, while at the same time involved much manual labor. He was a very large, strong, hard, intimidating presence. With all of the troubles in my childhood, nobody messed with me when my dad was around. He looked like the kind of man who could kill another man with one punch.
Combine that with a very young marriage and fatherhood, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Yet, looking back, he never, ever raised his hand to any of us in anger. Granted, the situation didn’t arise much. His mere appearance meant he could walk into a room, and we’d behave. “Wait till your father gets home” had added meaning for us boys. There were controlled, physical punishments, and I know some of y’all consider that violence and abuse, but I do not. I didn’t realise it at the time, but my father is a man of great restraint.
And his relationship with my mother? Y’all, they could make a movie about those two. Granted, most of it would be boring, but as they approach 50 years together (OMG!), their relationship is awe-inspiring. There is so much I could tell you, but to stay on point, I’ll say that my father would rather chop off his own hand than strike my mother.
I know many of y’all take offense to this word, but he cherishes her. There is much that I could go into about their history, about how it would have been quite easy to give up on her (especially in the 70’s, when everyone else was dissolving their marriages), but this is their own business. So, starting out, you could say I have no frame of reference for abusive relationships.
I always thought the way my parents would never spend a moment apart if they could help it was kind of creepy, yet, as time goes by, Lintilla and I are becoming the same way. How could I possibly hurt the other part of me? I truly do love her more than myself, I cannot imagine striking her or even saying hurtful things on purpose (I say plenty of hurtful things, not on purpose, as many of you know; the polite thing is to admit it and apologize). I can be an idiot, but it’s really something I can’t imagine, hurting my best friend, the love of my life.
And now, we get to the third generation in my frame of reference. There’s one rule in our household that Zaphod used to hate: no male can ever strike a female, even if she hits you first. I tried to explain to Zaphod that, it might be a fair fight now, but in just a few years he will be so much bigger and strong than the girls; if he’s used to hitting them then, it will be hard to stop. He would get quite angry with me when I would punish him for fighting back when a girl hit him on the playground.
Y’all, this is hard to write without tearing up. I am SOOOO proud of him! He’s a big boy; he’s taller than most of his classmates, and heavier than all of them. I’ve seen situations lately when a little holy female terror would provoke him physically, needling him, pushing him. Yet, he’s only ten years old, and he shows an incredible amount of restraint. He follows my wishes; he never, ever strikes a girl. It’s hard to explain just how proud of that boy I am. Just thinking of it, I feel my heart might burst.
So, the situation is set up for my frame of reference to be “infantile”. Lintilla, before she met me, had come out of an abusive marriage (the idiot was in jail by the time I met Lintilla, in fact). But given my frame of reference, my assumption was that “doopy-head”, as she called him, was a rarity amongst men, that the vast majority were like my father and me.
Yesterday’s discussion makes me think I might have been wrong. There is a dark, dark underbelly to the world that I know nothing about. I’m wondering if men like my father are in the minority. I know my theology speaks of the depravity of man, but we Methodists throw that term around, not giving it any weight. What if the depravity is not some theological academic concept, but a real thing where real people get hurt?
If I walk down the street, how many men that I pass are slapping their wives around at home? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s not a majority of them.
And it breaks my heart that there’s little I can do about it, except to spread the transforming love of Jesus, give money to battered women’s shelters, and to raise my son to be a real man, and behave toward my wife in a way that shows my daughter what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like. Then, maybe my grandchildren will be just as infantile about these things as I am.
I’d like to thank Aunt B, who wrote a post that moved me to tears. Like I said, I have a lot of thinking to do.