Starting when I was 12 my best friend was Steve. Steve was a great friend and we did all kinds of things together. However, his dad was the meanest guy in the world!
Larry is his dad’s name, and Larry is an ex-marine. He was going to make us boys into men by riding our butts about everything – and trying to kill Steve with work! I swear, Steve was going to die!
I would wait for Larry to go to work and then go over to Steve’s house so we could go play. Steve would come to the door completely deflated. He had to wash walls, clean the basement, weed the entire garden, or some other nearly impossible task! I would ask if I could help in this impossible feat, but no, I was forbidden. It’s almost like Larry knew that we would goof off more than work if we were together.
He called me Douglas. I’m not sure I could imitate him and how he said it. The way he said it always smacked of disappointment, had a ring of disdain, and a hint of “I’m not sure what it is, but I know something is your fault” to it! That may have just been my teenage paranoia at work though, now that I think about it.
I smile as I write this now, because now I’m a dad of three teenage boys. I’m sure they think the same things about me and the tasks that I give them to push them, to stretch them, to help them grow. Now I realize that maybe Larry was trying to help us grow out of love. To me at the time, it was very very well concealed love.
I ran into Larry on my quest to find my buddy in Idaho. You know what? Larry is a good guy. He’s found a way to retire to rural Idaho, has spent a good deal of his time there working to help others. He even drove a school bus for a while. My childhood version of Larry might have eaten school children for breakfast – but now I see that he’s actually quite fond of the little buggers.
He’s also a great example of devotion to his wife. They married young, and have been through thick and thin together. One thing that I never questioned in Larry’s life is how much he loves his wife, and how much trouble we would be in if we ever disrespected her. I appreciate that example in my life.
He certainly didn’t want his photo taken, but he had just gotten into his car to drive me down dirt roads to find my pal. I would have been lost for an hour, but Larry wanted to make sure I could find it. Does that sound like the meanest dad to you? Me either. In fact, I’m really rather fond of the guy.
one further note
It was my intent in this article to reflect the changes in my perspective as much or moreso than any changes that Larry has gone through. I attribute my change in my views toward him more to having grown into the role of father far more than to the mellowing that takes place as we each get older.
As a youthI resented, as most teenagers do, anyone who would impose a work ethic on me or my friends. I just wanted to “play” and anyone that wouldn’t let me “play” was “mean”.
Now that I’ve had more experience I’ve grown to appreciate the men in my life that cared enough to make me work whether I wanted to or not. My dad and Steve’s dad are among the top tier of these men.
The title is meant to make fun of my perceptions – and really doesn’t reflect the reality of Larry either then or now. He’s a good guy.