I have been fortunate to have experienced life all around our planet. Through many varied life lessons, I realize I was blessed with an incredible father. Even when his normally patient, gentle hands had to be hard enough to temper the tiger that poked its head through my emerging personality, it was done with love.
Grade 5 and tomorrow was my big math test. Never an inspired student, math was a particular struggle for me. My problems probably related to the incessant rules that had to be followed, the solid logic of the subject, the black and white of the right and wrong. There is no grey in math, it is an anti-art. This in such contrast to reading and writing, where I was more inclined to excel.
Dad was good at math, good at everything he set his mind to it seemed, so I asked him to help drill me, prepare me to pass. We sat at the kitchen table and he used flash cards I had made up. As well, he devised questions related to what the text book outlined. All was fine for about five minutes until I developed a case of the giggles. I don’t know where it came from, maybe a nervous reaction to getting so many answers wrong. He would ask, I would answer, he would show me where I went wrong, changed to; he would ask I would giggle, I would answer, he would tell me no, I would giggle. This quickly deteriorated to, he would ask and I would giggle and giggle. Suddenly one of his beautiful hands, one that had brushed off uncounted knees, cradled six bright hopeful faces, repaired flat bicycle tires, tossed balls to tiny hands, brushed hair out of faces before goodnight kisses, hugged his wife and kids and even neighbor kids, encouraged emerging men through untiring work with the Wolf Cubs, soldered life back into uncountable electronic devices, sewed square dancing shirts and dresses for himself and my mother, slapped me sharp across my cheek.
I was jolted out of my silly giggles and, suddenly, more correct answers than wrong ones began to fall out of my mouth. Even though tears tracked down my cheeks he didn’t hug me; but he didn’t abandon me either. He was a man with six young boys, a wife, a dog, a full-time career and side jobs to help make ends meet and I had been wasting his time. He still wanted me to succeed so he had devised the fastest method of getting me back on track to accomplish my goal. It wasn’t the most eloquent way to refocus me but it was certainly effective.
As I recall, I didn’t ace that test but I did pass it. Better though, I was left with a tool that I could use for the rest of my life to get me back on track whenever I found myself wandering. All that is necessary is to bring up the look on his face that day, remember how I disappointed him by not taking my life as seriously as he did. It has served me well and seen me through some difficult times during my travels around this planet. That was the slap heard around my life and why I love him so much for giving it to me.