My Dad was a very, very good Dad to me when I was growing up. Still is. I loved him deeply and I was eight or ten years old before I could imagine that he ever did anything wrong.
I loved spending time with my Dad but I had three big problems. First, my Dad was a seminary student. Second, my Dad was a pastor. Third, my Dad was a full-time second-shift factory worker.
Mom was tucking me into bed one night when I asked her to have Dad come in and kiss me good-night when he got home from work. She promised to tell him. I decided to stay awake until he came in. I tried with all my might to stay awake but soon I was sleeping.
When I woke up it was in the middle of the night. I called out to my mom. “Mom…. Mom… Mom? MOOOOOOMMMM!
“You said you were gonna’ have Dad kiss me goodnight when he got home from work.”
“He did, Kenny, but you were asleep.”
“I wanted to be awake.”
I cried and Mom said; “Go to sleep, Kenny, your Dad is tired.”
The next voice I heard was my Dad’s voice. “Kenny, I said goodnight to you when you came in. Now go to sleep.”
“Come here, Kenny.”
I went into my parents room. Poor Dad must have been exhausted from a long week of classes and a full time second-shift factory job. “Son, I love you. Here, let me hug you.” He did. I still wasn’t happy. I continued to cry and complain that he should have awakened me when he got in. That was the agreement as I understood it. I couldn’t put the injustice to rest and I wouldn’t let my parents get any rest until they did.
Finally Dad said; “Kenny, if you don’t go and get in bed and go to sleep now, I am going to have to spank you.” I didn’t. Finally Dad drew back his hand in the darkness to swat me on the bottom, but when he did his arm hit the table beside the bed and the table hit the window and the window broke. It didn’t crack, it shattered. And it wasn’t spring it was winter. And we didn’t live in Miami, we lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
For the first time since I woke up I was quiet. I stepped back to see what Dad would do. He turned on the light, wearily got out of bed, found some cardboard and duct tape to cover the broken pane until morning.
Three-quarters of an hour later we were all tucked back in our warm beds.
The next day was a Saturday. I watched my Dad pick up the broken glass from the snow beneath the window. He spent a good part of the morning measuring the widow, getting a pane of glass from the hardware and putting it in place. As I watched I thought to myself: “Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to just get up and come in my room and kiss me goodnight?”
There’s a lesson in this little story worth remembering. Its a lot easier just to give people the love they crave, than it is to clean up the mess when you don’t.