"You sure you done shut the power off?"
I answered the question by giving Pop a stern look that said, "Do I look that fucking stupid?" He answered the question by looking up from his whittling, smiling grimly, and saying, "You sure?"
That one made me angry, "Look here, Pop. I ain't near as stupid as you think I am. First thing I did before I started poking around in this here breaker box was turn the power off."
Five seconds later, I was lying flat on my ass after bringing my screwdriver in contact with a live wire. I fell hard backwards onto my wife's brand new, but flimsy, glass covered patio table, breaking the table, and cutting my left calf in the process. I was pissed and aimed my anger at my dad who was sitting there, stone faced, whittling.
"Don't you say a fucking word, Old Man. You say anything smart and I'll start putting itching powder in your Preparation H."
"Didn't say a thing."
"Didn't have to. I know what your thinking. In fact, this was your fault."
He put down his whittling and looked me exasperated.
I kept on, "If you hadn't a said nothing this most likely wouldn't have happened."
"My fault for asking you to double check?"
"Damn right. I shut the main switch off before I even started. For all I know, you mighta turned that switch back on yourself. Besides, you don't know everything there is to know. When were you born, 1926? We got lots of new shit, brand new shit, stuff that you could never imagine with your backwoods thinking. You need to lighten up with your criticisms and always being on my back about shit."
"So, I did this?" He waited for me to answer and I just went and switched the switch to the off position. "I'm the backwards one, huh. I might move somewhat slower than you kids, always rushing everywhere like you got someplace to go. I move slow, I admit it, but I don't often end up breaking my wife's patio furniture either, or blaming other people for my mistakes.
"You always got to be right though, even when your wrong."
"Let me ask you a question. What happened that time in the championship contest when you got that rebound with 40 seconds to go in the game."
I threw down the screwdriver in disgust. "Here we go again, blaming me for losing that game."
"I ain't blaming you, Son. Our defense sucked the whole game, and our shooting was even worse; you getting that rebound represented hope and opportunity though. It gave us the potential for overcoming all our sins, offered us redemption. I asked you a question. What happened."
"I grabbed it, turned and went, and ran over my defender causing a turnover."
"I violated one of the cardinal rules you had drummed into us which was always 'turn and look'. I told you a million times, Pop, I'm sorry for doing that. You can't know how sorry I am. I asked you over and over to forgive that me of that sin."
"You are always asking the wrong person for forgiveness, Son. Besides, It ain't sin if you come away with the lesson you were supposed to learn."
"I did. When I play basketball now, I always turn and look."
He spit. That was his way of expressing exasperation.
"Answer me this then, how many times in your senior season did you get thrown out going for third base?"
"Six times, well, maybe seven."
"How many times of those seven times did you fail to either look at, or just plain ignored the third base coach?"
I didn't answer him, by coming at me from another angle, what he was saying hit home.
He let it sink in good before he went on, "Whether you know it or not, the rules of sports are patterned after the rules of life. There's fucking limits in everything. They can be annoying, and they also slow you ass down some, but they are there for a reason,"
I nodded and went and picked up the screwdriver off the ground, walked back over to the fusebox and made big deal out of checking the fuse box. When I was done, I went and poured myself a glass of tea and sat down by my father.
"These stories of yours are good, Pop. But why don't you ever make a point by telling me how Glenn screwed shit up. or Scott?"
Pop chuckled before saying, "Glen wasn't fast as you; he hit singles and got on base by walking too. He got caught looking a lot. Caught a fastball in the mouth once looking for a walk. When I wiped blood off his face, I told him 'There's your lesson, Son, hit the motherfucker before it hits you. Now your little brother Scott solved them problems by parking the ball in the stands. His problem was swinging at change-ups."
"What did you tell him?"
"We always had a fan in the dugout; it was usually hot. He'd come out that batter box with his head hung down, and I'd point to the fan and tell him I'd didn't need him to stir up a breeze."
"He ever learn."
"Put it this way, he been married four times."
It was my turn to chuckle, "Pop, you ever get caught trying to take third."
He responded was by giving me the biggest grin, in fact, the first such grin that he had mustered up since we had buried mom a little over a year before.
"I set the Arkansas state record of getting thrown out at third 21 times in my career. Got caught looking maybe another 15 times and swung and missed 12 change-ups. Got shocked a few times too."
"Truth be told, Pop. It sounds like you weren't all that great a player."
He leaned over and started to spit but stopped and leaned back into his chair, "You right. I was decidedly mediocre. You don't have to be great to learn a lesson as a lot of them sumbitches are best learned when you make a mistake. But I ain't never tried to sit down on a flimsy assed glass patio table either."
This time we both grinned.