(Continuation of the post: A Little About My Parents)
Have I mentioned that my father was meticulous and uptight? Well, these are some of the most accurate terms to describe him. I don’t believe I have or ever will find someone as organized as my father was. This has helped me in some areas of life and haunted me in others. I had a tendency to be a perfectionist when I was younger, to the point where it was suggested I go to counseling in fifth grade to manage my stress and anxiety. It was also due to a sudden and distressing change I was attempting to adjust to.
I recently had switched to a new school. This was the only other school in 6 years I had attended. My elementary school was a small, close-knit Catholic school, and I had become so comfortable and reliant on my mom working onsite in the Religious Education Department, and accustomed to, the relationships with close friends I had been developing since Kindergarten. They had been a part of my family life weekday and weekend; every week of my school-aged childhood. I really had a difficult time adjusting, and I was struggling, emotionally, more than usual. I became painfully sensitive; incidentally, leading me to stress over every minuscule thing I was concerned about in school: grades, fluctuating/distrustful friendships, or criticisms of any sort. Irrational compensation for being deeply self-conscious. Looking back, I think some of this perfectionism was a result of my father’s habits which gave him the ability to keep things looking good as new; even ten years after he had bought the item.
He was extremely, sometimes painstakingly, self-disciplined. There are so many examples of this throughout my childhood. One that stands out to this day, since I have yet to see anyone do such a drastic thing to keep a vehicle’s floors clean, is carefully placing hand towels under the floor mats to keep any of the original floor from showing. This kept water, dirt, or anything else from actually touching any part of the carpet in our van. The rule was no one was to enter the vehicle without kicking off debris from their shoes, and many times I was told, “You are not getting in my car like that; you can walk home.” This was usually after getting too wet or dirty from time on the beach, or outside on a wet or snowy day. He was partially kidding, and partially completely serious. I knew the rules and so did every one of my friends; once they hung out with me for more than a couple of hours.
My dad had a saying, as he started intently into your eyes with a squinty, semi-stern look, “I have a list and you do not want to be at the top of it,” or “You are on the top of my list,” fist shaking in the air, sarcastically! Many of my friends did not know what the consequences of being at the top of his list meant, and I knew it was mostly just a joke, but the unknown and his candor made my friends respect him and kept them guessing. To those who knew him, it just made them giggle, and he had fun with it! When I would have a sleepover and someone would get too loud at night, my dad only had to yell once, and they knew to be quieter. They never wanted to test him. One rule I knew we were to remember when upstairs, especially at night; do not to thump. My father hated thumping!
People who visited our house were advised immediately to take off their shoes, and my father let every one of my sister’s boyfriends know immediately, well within the first five minutes of meeting them, that he did not permit standing while peeing in the toilet at our house. This unusual ritual of sitting while he peed was not common for boys or most men, and from what I’m told caused some confusion for my brother when he was younger and started using the bathroom at school; where most boys stood at urinals and peed. Being a girl I did not have to worry about disobeying this rule, but I now realize how uncommon this type of expectation was. I have never met another male in my life who grew up thinking it was customary to sit while he urinated. My father felt it was unacceptable to do it any other way. He also commanded respect!
Though my father was forward and commanding, he also had a big heart and loved and cared for nothing greater, than his family. He worked hard and took pride in what he did. His skills as a machinist were impeccable and his abilities came naturally. He was one of those people who struggled in school, almost did not graduate, suffered from dyslexia, undiagnosed, and solved complex math problems but could not describe step-by-step; how he did it. This always frustrated me, though, when he would help me with my homework because the rule was, you have to show your work. He would be able to get the answer, but could not show me how.
His natural math abilities came in handy as a machinist. Part of his job was to read blue prints, which he did with ease and expertise. The meticulousness and precision with which he shaved and carved metal also made him rare in his skills and technique. He was naturally brilliant at this work and trained many incoming apprentices. There was always a job awaiting him if he desired to transfer. One strife of his was having a confrontational personality that, at times, caused issues with co-workers and bosses. He had a hard time conforming to the vulgarity around the machine shop, or the expectations of succumbing to the requirements that went along with being someone’s employee. Yet even with the conflicts, no one could deny his talent and expertise as an expert machinist.