“Are you out of your mind?”
I say this often, but I’m not sure why. When I was a troubled youngster, I hated this line when it was said to me and it was said to me often by The Old Man. Most often, this was said to me after I had done something idiotic and always, this was screamed after I did something so blatantly and incredibly wrong.
“Are you out of your mind?”
The Old Man was not known to accept excuses or understand the social draws that come with crazy youthfulness. He was certainly never accepting of the truth, that I in my infinite wisdom, enjoyed what I did and thought that somehow, I could get away with whatever it was.
The Old Man would certainly never tolerate the true reasons of why I behaved so wildly and had I answered him honestly, still to this day, I could not imagine what would have happened next.
With The Old Man standing in front of me, poking my chest with his stiff pointer finger; looking at me as if he could explode at any moment—veins bulging at the side of his head; meanwhile, my eyes opened wide, nearly tearing with the terrible fright of the consequences about to come my way.
I stood, looking elsewhere, nervously averting my eyes and waiting for the impending doom that came with the dreaded follow-up questions which always trailed behind.
“What the he’ll were you thinking?”
What the hell was I thinking?
Apparently,—I wasn’t thinking about being caught; and being young, being that I was not of sound or sober mind, being that I was not thinking at all, and if I were thinking at all, I certainly never thought about this, the aftermath of my problems, or the consequences of my actions. I never planned for this part: The Old Man standing in front of me, heavy handed, and about to serve discipline. And thirdly, after the first question that was followed by the second, the third and single-worded question came from the Old Man’s snarl and spewed through angry grinded teeth: “Well?”
This meant I had to answer him. This meant I had to answer both questions with one answer. First, I had to answer if I was out of my mind and second, I had to respond to his question of, “What the hell was I thinking?”
Naturally, in situations like this, no answer is a good answer, and waiting to answer leads to a more aggressive repeat of the last, final question; finalizing that statement with what I saw more as a fatal warning. “Well? ANSWER ME!”
Referring to my stock answer, I said what any kid says in times like this. In fact, I said what every kid says. I said the only three words that come to mind when trouble comes. And moreover, the words I chose are the worst three words that a kid could say to an angry, old schooled father, one who worked hard for a living, who before dawn was out of the house and returned home at sunset to eat either a cold or reheated dinner; who had no tolerance nor patience for lies, me, or poor behavior. Timidly, and expecting the lion-like roar from The Old Man, I whimpered the only three words that came to mind. “I don’t know.”
“ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!”
I hated that question. I hated when The Old Man would ask me, “What the hell were you thinking?” And when I stalled to answer, I hated when The Old Man would shout, “Well? ANSWER ME!”
I’m sure if you would have asked me then what I would be like now, at this point in my life; I’m sure I would have never imagined myself as a father or the head of a household. I’m sure if you had asked me then I would never have been able to understand my Old Man’s frustration. I certainly would have told you, “I will never say anything like, ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?”
It’s a weird thing this growing up stuff. I find myself angry with things like gas prices (just like The Old Man) and I find myself leaving the house early and coming home late (just like The Old Man) and when something goes wrong in my house, I admit it; I find myself shouting the same dreaded question . . .
“Are you out of your mind?” followed up with a “What the hell were you thinking, and of course, finalized with a, “Well? ANSWER ME!”
Man, this being a grownup stuff is for the birds.
In answer to the question; no, Pop.
I wasn’t out of my mind. I just needed to learn a few things is all it was. Maybe I need to remember that sometimes before I ask others, “What the hell were you thinking,” and then giving them a second before I demand, “Well? ANSWER ME!!”
I wonder what it was like when The Old Man was young. I wonder what his Old Man told him in the crazy days of youthfulness. Maybe it was the same thing. Maybe like me, when The Old Man screamed, a tiny piece rung out inside of his head and he said to himself, “I sound the same as my father back when he used to yell at me.”
I guess it’s not such a bad thing being like The Old Man.
I just need to learn a few things is all
Sleep well, Pop
I promise to write you soon