This I know
Because the Bible told me so.
Actually, I had figured it out for myself, that Pop wasn’t stupid. It did take me a while, though.
Actually, Pop was stupid back in 1957. I was sixteen, and there was a slightly used Ford for sale for $495 at Herman Smedlap’s garage in town. I had $500 in the bank. Gas was 25 cents/gallon. Let’s see. Four quarters to the buck. Five bucks. 5x4. Holy crap. I could buy twenty gallons. I could drive to the moon and back!
I rolled out my arguments to buy that car. Pop said no. I rolled out my first reserve arguments. Pop said no. I rolled the second reserve. Pop said no. Poop. I hadn’t thought I’d need a third. “You’re a stick in the mud and old fashioned,” I said. “And stupid.” “Stupid,” was my spur-of-the-moment third reserve, which Pop didn’t even say, “No,” to. Maybe some of you know a man-of-few-words, my pop was a man of fewer words. The next day, Mom told me I had hurt Pop’s feelings. I didn’t know he had feelings. And the thought of talking to him, after he’d been stupid, scared the crap out of me. As far as an apology went, I was a man of fewest words.
Nine years later, I was an ensign on a destroyer in the Tonkin Gulf, and I was writing to my wife and mother of our daughter, and reminiscing over the day cupid stuck his arrow in my gizzard. It was just a few months after Pop had been stupid. I wrote to her about the incident and knew what her reply would be. So I wrote Pop, too. Of course, I never heard back.
Then this past Sunday the gospel was from Matthew. The one with the eye for a tooth and turning the other cheek, but there was another line: “If anyone presses you into service for one mile, go two.”
Whoa! That snapped me back to 1954 and the summer between seventh and eighth grades. I was looking forward to a leisurely summer, fishing, swimming in the creek, baseball. “Get up,” Pop said. “Eat breakfast,” Pop said. “Throw your bike in the trunk,” Pop said. He drove us to this farm out next to the parish picnic grounds. A man came out onto the graveled drive next to his farmhouse. “You’re working Oscar Meyer,” Pop said. He unloaded my bike and drove away. “Clean the cow poop out of the milk barn,” Oscar said and went back to finish his breakfast. Oscar hadn’t said when payday was. After three weeks, I asked. “Your pop said I didn’t have to pay you.” I asked Pop about that. “A boy needs to learn how to work,” he said. “A boy don’t need no practice to learn how to get paid.”
I figure translating what Jesus said in Hebrew into Greek and into Latin and then into English, the words might have gotten a bit mushed up, but when you look at it, Jesus’s words said, “JJ your Pop wasn’t stupid. He had My meaning nailed.”
Sunday, listening to the deacon read that line, I was glad all over again I apologized to Pop all those years ago. I had a vision of standing before St. Pete as he sat on his bar stool behind the podium and scrolled his ipad. “JJ,” I pictured him saying, “Explain this calling your father stupid item from 1957. We have this ‘honor thy father’ thing here, you know?” Without my apology out there in the cloud, it wouldn’t have mattered how many reserve answers I had for that one.
Pop was not stupid. The Bible told me so.