I brag about my stepdad a lot, that’s not news for those what know me. I was a tad worried when that crusty ol’ yankee came into our lives. We were from two different worlds’; he didn’t understand much of what I said, and I sure didn’t understand that New York accent of his. But Ma seemed to be happy with the arrangement, and as the “man of the house” I went along with it. After all, back in those days; finding a feller to take on a divorced lady and her band of four heathens was no easy task, even if we were all just “perfect angels.”
I don’t know when it happened, but sooner or later that ol’ coot started to grow on us. Possible because he looked the part, I rarely seen him in anything other than his bib overalls and long sleeve shirt. A gnawed toothpick eternally hung from one corner of his mouth, while a lit cigarette hung from the other. He kept a large ashtray by his recliner, but it was only a general target, evidenced by the ring of ashes circling it.
His nature was loud to say the least, and anything he had to say was generally heard by everyone in the room, (whether they wanted to be a participant in the conversation or not). He had the “particular” habit of calling me by my formal name, never “Mike” but “Michael,” and he began every conversation with it.
I can’t begin to list all the advice he passed down to my teen-aged self. Most of them are just…automatic now, I don’t think about them, they just seem to be there and happen, like blinking, you don’t think about it, you just blink. But one piece of advice sticks out above all else, it’s a list, and I’ve tried to pass at least one item from that list to each member of The Tin Cup boys.
That list, titled by my stepdad was known as your D.W.B.s’. More formally known as your “Damn. Well. Betters’.” (Right now, my kids are reading this and shaking their heads, yea…they’ve heard em before.
“Michael” (see there, he did it again). You damn well better pay your taxes, “Render unto Caesar” he would say. It’s your responsibility to pay your fair share, after all, it’s a small price to pay so’s you and your family can lay down and sleep at night, free from the fear of some cracker head breaking in and taking it from ya. This country ain’t perfect…but it’s a damn sight better than most. “ Now I don’t know about you” he would say, “but I got no desire to be standing in line to buy cheap government issued toilet paper.” Besides…you don’t want em getting their hooks in you if you don’t pay em. He called em “hooks” not “claws,” claws you can just pull out, but hooks, they’re a different story, you can’t pull em out, they got barbs. Once the government gets those hooks in you for non-payment, they ain’t letting go. So…good Lord willing, I’ve paid em what I owe em, ain’t got no hooks in me to speak of yet.
“Michael” (there it is again). You damn well better realize there is a “Higher Power.” Now you can call this “Higher Power” what you want, “but believe you me brother,” (he said that a lot as well) there’s a divine force pulling the strings. “You may be the center of “your” universe, but you’re not the center of “the” universe,” I guarantee it. We as children of God have the responsibility of looking out for the one on our right. Think about that for a second, it makes sense. As children, we answer to our parents, we have rules and like it or not, we have limits. A five-year-old may want ice-cream for breakfast, but as a parent, it’s our responsibility to say no. Adults and parents aren’t any different, we (adults) also have rules and limits. We can’t have everything we want, or do anything we want, oft times those things aren’t good for us in the long run, so sometimes God says “no.” Kids need to feel comfortable asking their parents for advice, just as adults need to feel comfortable asking God for advice. Often we may not like the answer, just like the ice-cream.
“Michael” (you knew that was coming). You damn well better fix that toy. This is a big one for parents, so pay attention. A child will never bring you a broken heart if they can’t bring you a broken toy. (I’m gonna let that sink in for a minute while you read it again). Don’t get so caught up with life and all its troubles, that you don’t have time to fix that broken toy and wipe that tear from your little ones cheek. When your child brings you a headless doll, or a crashed toy car, all things gotta stop. Period. To them, that bobble is their heart and their world, and they’re asking you (trusting you) to fix it, and they die a little inside, each time you don’t have time for them. When they get older, the toy is replaced with more grown-up issues, they need to know they can bring that to you in safety as well, they gotta know they matter, and you will do your absolute best.
“Michael” (aww come on, you didn’t expect to stop now). You damn well better open the door and take off the hat. This one can get a little sticky so bear with me. This revolves entirely around respect. Never forget to open the door for the person behind you, especially if that person is a lady. It’s simple manners that many have forgotten. The practice serves two purposes. Doing so humbles you in the company of others, that’s an honorable thing no matter how important you think you are. (Refer to #2), not the center of “the“ universe thing, remember? This little habit reminds us of our place in this world and our responsibility daily. The next and most important, is respect. This small act of humility honors the other, especially should that person be older. They have done their time, gained a lifetime of knowledge and wisdom, and are worthy of our (your) respect. I’m gonna inject a little of my own here and ask something of you. The next time you are waiting in the drive through, getting your morning coffee and sausage biscuit, pay the tab for the person in the car behind you. Don’t wait around for recognition just do it, that’s between you and God, (he notices stuff like that), trust me on this one. You’d be surprised how much it brightens their day, remember, take care of the person to your right, (also from #2). Finally, never sit at the table with your hat on. To some this may seem rather trivial, but in removing your hat you demonstrate reverence to your Heavenly father for providing you the means to afford and enjoy the meal you have been blessed with, as well as respect for the one who prepared it for you.
D.W.B.# 5 “Michael” (you knew it was coming). Family is everything, especially when you don’t like em. Relationships are like the tide; they ebb and flow. Some days they’re so sweet you could eat em up, and other days you wish you had. (feel free to use that quote). Nobody gets along all the time, if that’s what you expect, you’re destined for heartache. We age we change, we hurt we heal, we forgive… and we love. In a perfect world love is unconditional, unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. So…God gave us families, a group of imperfect individuals to help bare the burden when life gets to heavy for one. We may (and will) fight and argue, we may say and do things we shouldn’t, we forget birthdays and anniversaries. We may even take each other for granted. But in the end, we are all we have, and quiet possibly all we need, ain’t it wonderful! You see…he “that Higher Power” designed us that way, and the last time I checked, he don’t make no mistakes.
D.W.B.# 6 “Michael” (Last one I promise). Never break a covenant. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. When you give a man your word, or shake a man’s hand, that’s the end of it. You can’t break a covenant, not even the good Lord will break that. To this day, If I pump a man’s paw, I know it’s serious business, I still conduct a lot of my affairs that way, and I warn folks about the importance before they grab my hand. I get the short end a good many times, but as long as you keep your end of the bargain, you can sleep well at night.
So there’s the D.W.B.s, you might even want to put em on your refrigerator, right next to the crayon drawing of the family dog. I’ve tried to instill at least one of these D.W.B.s into each of my boys in the books. My hope is, when you read it, you will see it in their personalities. The release date is still up in the air, times as they are and all, publisher says they are doing their best. Until then I request and Thank You for your patience. As always, a “like” or “share” is greatly appreciated, and I enjoy the comments. There is also a “Tin Cup Clan” FB page, you are welcomed to join us. Till next time…. sincerely, The Tin Cup Clan.