Sunday, July 14, 2013

One of the things I was taught.

Nobody is ever going to accuse me of being intellectually gifted. I always tried to learn what was being taught. Teachers made comments like "He is so smart, if he would only apply himself." I remember having a pretty inquisitive nature, I still do. I like to figure out how things work, or figure out how I can make it better. I was taught to look at things from different perspectives to see other perspectives. I've tried to remember to think things through before acting.

I play "what if?" in my head a lot.

I was taught to be kind. I'd like to think I succeed. I know that I haven't always been very good at this. Each day I remind myself to try harder. If by some chance I was unkind to any of you, please accept my apologies. I sincerely didn't mean to act so.

Specifically, I remember my mother trying to teach me to turn my back on meanness and hate. Mom taught me that even though the kids I wanted to be friends with were chasing me, throwing rocks at me and calling me names like "bastard" and "heathen" and telling me that I was going to hell, that I would find other friends. I did.

But I remember.

One neighborhood "friend" would start a fight with me every time he came over to play. He'd come to the door and ask if I could play and then as soon as we were outside and out of sight from grown up eyes, he'd start the smack talk and eventually escalate to shoving and pushing. That ended after I was taught how to punch someone in the nose. It wasn't a hard hit, and I don't remember being overly satisfied of the act, but he didn't bully me anymore.

I remember being taught that a particular word was a "bad"" word and to not say it. In second grade I overheard one of the other boys in the class use that word. When I said something about it to a teacher, the teacher said they would take care of it. After recess, the teacher stood in front of the class and begun their object lesson by telling the class that someone did something very wrong at recess. Then, this bastion of grown-up authority proceeded to describe the events as they took place except the point they set out to make was that someone was "tattling" that the word wasn't really a bad word at all.

Paula Dean might have something to discuss with you, teacher.

The teacher never mentioned any names. Nobody knew all the players except for me and the teacher. I was taught perspective at that point. I was taught that not everybody shares the same values. I also learned that I could still hold to the values I was taught without compromising myself. I was still friends with the boy, at least for a while. But I learned not to forget what was right.

My father, as I have mentioned in prior blogs, was in a horrible crash one night while working. He and his partner were patrolling for poachers and were parked on the of a road out in the county when the poachers they were seeking came speeding down the road and ran into the side of the truck dad was driving. The driver of the other car was killed and dad's partner got a cut on his chin. Dad fared somewhat worse. The engine of the truck was pushed into the truck cab, rolling the firewall over dad's foot, crushing his ankle and trapping his foot. It also pushed his left femur out through the back of his pelvis. Last, the dashboard crumpled down and smashed dad's right leg just above the knee.

Jim, dad's partner, grabbed the microphone for the two-way radio and screamed to the police dispatch "There's been a crash and Grant's hurt!" The law enforcement community is pretty tight, but not as much as that small valley's contingent was. All of the agencies - Sheriff's office, Police department, Fish and Game, all worked together and knew and supported each other. Lamar Melville, one of the troopers headed out to the scene. Someone else had the foresight to stop by the hospital and grab the ER doctor who had recently returned from a stint in a MASH unit in Viet Nam. Everybody headed out to help.

Once Lamar got on the scene, with Roy Hansen, they used a six-foot pry bar to get the door open enough to get dad extricated, breaking dads ankle in the process. He never held it against them. The fire department and ambulance showed up, Highway Patrol on the scene, patients transported into town. Mom got a phone call, THE phone call, and was told "Grant's been in an accident and you should come to the hospital." Mom told me years later that she had no idea how bad things were.

Mom got to the hospital and was sitting in the waiting area of the ER when she heard sirens approaching. The rig stopped in the driveway and suddenly the doors exploded in as the attendants rushed in with dad on a gurney, the doctor straddling him performing chest compression in an effort to keep his heart beating and screaming "Somebody get an OR going, he's already died seven times and I don't know if I can bring him back again."

Dad survived through the night, and the next day, possibly two days later, they decided to transport him to Salt Lake City to a hospital better equipped to handle this amount of injury. The doctors didn't feel dad was stable enough to fly so they sent him via ground transport in case they needed to stop at another hospital en route. Dad was blessed to have his uncle as one of his doctors in Salt Lake and the teams worked tirelessly to put him back together. He didn't thrive in the hospital in spite of having his injuries on the mend and was sent home basically to die. Mom, family and friends all worked to do everything they could and he finally started to begin the terrible, long road to recovery. He never did fully recover, however, dad did live almost three decades after the crash, in constant pain and discomfort.

And he taught. Dad taught me that a person may have physical limitations and challenges, but there are usually ways to work around things. He also taught me that sometimes, in spite of whether you want to or not, you need to ask for help. Dad was incredibly resourceful during a time that prosthetics were sometimes barbarous and cruel. I remember how heavy his "leg" was and how he struggled at times.

What I don't remember was ever, not once, hearing dad complain about his situation. One more thing he taught me was that complaining didn't help. Fixing the problem did.

One of the local police officer's that was a friend of dad's was kind of obnoxious. He could be a little crude and he had what we used to call "a mouth". I noticed once that whenever he stopped by, mom would make herself scarce. When I asked her about it, she simply stated that he was dad's friend and that not all of dad's friends were her friends too. She didn't try to tell me that I couldn't like him, or that he was a bad person, she just let me make my own mind up about him.

I have a lot of examples of mom letting me learn my own way with gentle guidance. Even when she disagreed with someone, she never looked down on them or talked about them. She was truly one to let people live their own life. And yet she was accosted so many times by others. Neighbors, thankfully only a few, people in the community (mom had surgery on her feet and was in two walking casts while dad was healing and people that were family/friends of the other men involved in dad's accident would run into her feet with shopping carts at the grocery store), and even family. I'm not going to name names or go into details here, but I was lucky enough to comfort mom once in a while as she dealt with the pain from actions or words of family members.

And mom never sad a hurtful or unkind word about any of them. She would quietly rise above that. And she taught me to not judge.

Lately, this last lesson has been on my mind. A lot. For whatever reason I have recently been exposed to comments from people that have touched some nerve inside me. Some from friends, some from family and, thankfully, mostly from "others" such as Facebook or Twitter posts or the media. Quite often, these comments were made solely to hurt someone or to cast them in a light less than bright. Most of the time the comments were made because someone had an audience and could say whatever they wanted without thinking of anybody else. Some of the comments were made from beliefs and lessons learned. Some of the comments were made out of pain. When you speak out in pain, sadly, so many times your intention is to hurt someone else. You hurt and you want to make someone else hurt. They might be dead or just not have a clue that you were speaking of/to them. But you have no problem venting your spleen to alleviate your own pain.

I'm pretty outspoken and I encourage others to be so as well. As long as the conversation isn't just saying things to be mean or argumentative, as long as their is respect and a sharing of ideas, a discussion in the true sense, I'm okay with that. When comments are made just to hurt or insult, your argument is invalid and it is no longer a discussion.

Next, I'd like to ask a question of you, the reader. Have you ever made a decision that you know was wrong? Something major, life-changing. Have you done something that made you totally miserable and unhappy? How did you resolve that? What did you do to fix it? What if what you did to fix it hurt someone else?

Have you ever sacrificed your own happiness, your own contentment, in an effort to not offend someone regardless of how miserable it would make you? Have you ever witnessed someone else in either of these situations? What did you say to them? How did you tell them to resolve the issue?

How did you judge them?

More importantly, why did you judge them?