My wife tells me that in many ways I truly represent my parents but in other ways, I systematically avoid what they have done. She feels that often I suppress any type of anger and I feel very proud that I rarely lose my temper. My godly and pietistic mother was never able to overcome and subdue her temper. As a kid, I made a vow to myself that I will never behave that way. To a great degree I have been able to keep that promise and sometimes when my kids say, “You are shouting at us,” I ask them to check their imaginary ears because I rarely raise my voice.
One of the great strengths of my wife is her punctuality. If she tells you that she will be there at 1:30 pm, you can expect her to be there a couple of minutes before that. I usually arrive a couple of minutes late and that is often a cause for discussion between the two of us. One of the funny things (at least in my mind) is the estimated time to arrive at airports. My wife plans to be there at least 30 to 60 minutes before her flight time. When I drive her to the airport, she thinks we are running late before I even get into the driver’s seat. Reminding her that “I flew over 100 times and only twice did I miss the plane” does not comfort her at all. Instead, it has just the opposite effect.
In the beginning of the summer, many rooms in the church look slightly messy (at least in my estimation). Many Sunday School classes have finished, Vacation Bible School planning is in full swing, and people do their spring cleaning and we receive clothes, furniture and electronic equipment. I regard it as a summer transitional inventory. One night, one of our members got the idea that we should toss out all sorts of things because they were crowding the room. I explained why the room is in this condition and said we did not want him to bring his truck the next day. On the way home, I remembered a conversation with this person’s mother. She told me that she brings her Christmas decorations out of the attic every third year because she has so many of them. I figured out that this person was reacting this way because of his childhood background where things were so crowded in his house that he now prefers a minimalist approach.
One of my favorite things to observe is when the men at the church clean the kitchen after one of their activities. When they leave, it looks spotless to their eyes. A couple of weeks later, the sisters come to an event and the real cleaning (and sometimes the complaining) begins. They wonder who was in the kitchen last and what they have done to clean up. It is true that in a short time it looks much cleaner, but I am fully convinced that there only a few exceptional men who can clean a kitchen to a woman’s approval.
I learned to nod, pay compliments often, and agree with those who are willing to do a better job than I have done. I have learned to accept the fact that often what we do is a reaction, and it is a liberating act from our past into the behavior of the present.