a grandfather’s quiet dignity vs passive aggression
a grandfather’s quiet dignity
Mar 16, 2010
Script is below the video player. Note that this is the “right-brain/feminine companion to yesterday’s featured video: https://jrfibonacci.wordpress.com/willing-to-lead/)
When I was a small child, I had a favorite grandfather. He had white hair, but on his eyebrows and not his head. For all the years I knew him, he was totally bald. I think he may have also had some hair in his ears.
I remember what it was like to be with him, to hold his hand, to sit on his lap. He wore clothes that I had never seen anyone wear, like all-white slacks or yellow and white plaid polyester, apparently typical of retired golfers in that decade.
One of the things that we did together was that he would take me fishing on the Gulf of Mexico. Once I was very excited that I caught an angelfish, but then, after a few hours in our bucket, my grandfather released it back in to the blue waves of the bay. I had probably been planning to mount that angelfish on the wall right next to his six-foot long stuffed marlin (or swordfish… whatever).
He had about two dozen grandchildren born in his lifetime and a few more were born after he died. I am the fourth oldest. All of the grandkids called him “Popo.”
Popo, though, actually was not quite as much fun as my favorite uncle, who would gather around with a bunch of my cousins to do things like tell us fart jokes or challenge us to arm wrestle with him using only two of his fingers. Most memorable of all for me was that he would talk to us in the voice of Donald Duck, and he did an excellent impression, which all of us kids tried to copy. We would
request that of him relentlessly, but he knew how to get away from our pestering. He could tell us one silly joke in that Donald Duck voice and, kind of like bowling pins toppling over, a bunch of little kids would roar with laughter and fall over, rolling around on the ground holding their sides in a big pile of youthful joy.
In contrast to my favorite uncle, Popo seemed to me more private, more quiet, and very steady. I spent a lot of time alone with him, which I treasured. At family gatherings, he was not as likely to mix with the little kids. He preferred to play a card game called bridge, which seemed incredibly complex to me.
I complained to my sister, mostly because she was the only one listening, that I did not know what was so important to Popo about that stupid card game anyway. She apparently recognized my passive aggression as primarily an indication of boredom and an invitation to interact, so then she offered to play a simple card game with me- like “war” or “go fish” – an offer that I am sure I eagerly accepted.
Sometimes when Popo and I were fishing- or while he was fishing and I just kept casting baited lines out into the water and then eventually reeling them back in without any bait- he would tell me stories. I do not remember most of the stories he told me, but when he told me a story, it was not just reading me an old book again hoping that I would fall asleep soon. He was really interested in me being attentive to what he was sharing.
There is one story that he told me more than once, though- so it must have been important to him to tell me that one. The story was about a man floating on a boat out in the bay when it was dark and foggy.
The man was by himself and of course he was out there in the bay to fish- probably for that same angelfish that we had tossed back in last year. While he was sitting there waiting for a tug on his fishing pole, the man saw, through the gray blanket of thick fog, a faint, hazy light which soon got brighter and bigger, and then he saw the outline of another boat- coming straight at him!
The man stood up in his little boat- which was not a boat designed for standing- and yelled “Hey, you’re heading right at my boat. You need to watch where you are going. You better change your course right now!”
There was no response. A few seconds passed. The fisherman got very angry then and screamed: “Change course or else I’m going to ram into you!”
There was still no response and the other boat was still heading straight for the angry fisherman. So, the fisherman yanked on the
chord of the motor, which roared into action, pouring the smell of diesel fuel into the air, then he spun his boat around and indeed rammed it right into the side of the approaching vessel, only to find that the sailboat was totally empty. However, both boats were damaged in the process of ramming, so the fisherman began to swim to shore, abandoning all the fish he had caught up until he counter-attacked the empty boat.
That was where Popo ended the story the first time he told it to me. He said that the story was about anger and complaining and blame, and how all of them are based on inaccurate presumptions. Naturally, I just nodded my head gratefully, rather than reveal that I had no idea what the words “inaccurate presumptions” meant.
Because he was apparently psychic, he smiled at me the way that always made me smile, too, whenever he smiled at me that way and then he said: “You do know what I mean by inaccurate presumptions, don’t you?”
I answered him as enthusiastically as any other small child of my age would, “Yeah, Popo, of course I do: inaccurate presumptuous means when you’re in an empty boat trying to ram another boat but you miss it. That’s VERY inaccurate!”
He replied: “When you’re in an empty boat, huh? You are SO creative!”
However, there was an alternate ending to this story that he later shared with me, but only when I was old enough to hear the PG-rated version. “Do you know why the sailboat was empty?”
“Tell me, Popo! Wait, I think I know: was there a ghost driving the sailboat?”
“Well, I did not check, but maybe there was. By the way, I did tell you that I was the man who got so angry that I rammed my little motorboat in to an empty sailboat, right?”
“No, Popo, of course you didn’t say that before. Anyway, you never get mad. So, it couldn’t have been you!”
“Well- perhaps only that one time- I did get mad, but what happened next suddenly interrupted my story about how I should not have been so angry at the empty boat, which I immediately forgot all about. Do you want to know what happened next?”
“Um, was it a UFO?”
“No, but that’s very close. What happened next was that a huge ship with big cannons emerged from the fog.”
“Oh, Popo, I love pirates!”
“It was the Navy– or was it the Coast Guard– I forget. Anyway, the person who had been on the sailboat had been attacked by pirates and almost died, but was rescued by the huge patrol ship- and may or may not recover from her injuries. As for me, I also got a ride back to shore with them. They warned me though to never again ram an empty boat, because there are sharks in the water around here.”
“Right, Popo. When you are in an empty boat and are trying to ram in to some pirates to rescue the Navy, do not be so inaccurate and presumptuous, right?”
“That’s exactly what I was going to say! You are a quick learner.”
“I know. They taught me to be a quick learner at school last year.”
“Oh, did they really? How did they do that?”
“Well, uh, I don’t remember stuff like that, Popo! Hey, do you want to play cards with me now- not bridge though, okay?”
Well, as the other adults sat around complaining about things like hyperinflation and long lines at the gas station, Popo would sometimes sneak over and say to me, smiling “I think they are yelling at an empty boat again.” I smiled back, though I had no idea what he was talking about.
Apparently, there were different political scandals in those days, too. I think one was called Waterpark or something like that, and of course there was the US military peace-keeping war in colonial Indo-China, which was a topic that, whenever it came up, Popo would immediately interrupt by politely but firmly challenging everyone to a game of cards.
There were different economic developments as well in those years back when Popo was alive. Uncle Tim still does great impressions of Donald Duck, though. Plus, there always seem to be people willing to angrily ram in to an empty boat rather than just change their own course. 😉
J.R. has been publishing analysis and advance forecasts of the major future developments in economics for the last 7 years, including the global credit crisis, the spike in fuel prices, and the historic drop in real estate and stock prices, which, according to the predictable sequence of events that he has been monitoring since 2002, is about to accelerate. In addition to managing private investments to find the most profitable opportunities in all market conditions, he has also been negotiating dramatic discounts for credit card debt for the last 5 years.
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