After I graduated high school I spent the summer in unrepentant sloth. Graduation parties, bonfires on the beach, and the consumption of alcohol led to many late nights and even later mornings. I hadn’t gotten a job nor had I registered for college. Why would any 18 year old when he was having so much fun, right?
Early one morning in late July my father entered my room. He announced his presence by nearly splintering the door off its hinges, which was impressive because it was already open. This was followed by a sonic boom that in my memory sounded like: “What the hell are you doing?”
My father was a child of the Great Depression who had joined the Marine Corps in 1947. He’d served for 33 years fighting in both Korea and Vietnam on multiple tours. He had been a machine gunner, a sniper, and a Reconnaissance Marine. Among his hobbies as a young jarhead we boxing, jiu jitsu, and All Marine Judo competitions. On his time off he got into brawls in local bars because he thought it was fun. When he held his out hands, each finger went off in a different direction as he’d broken them all on someone’s face at one time or another. His nose had been broken so many times a doctor once exclaimed: “How in the world do you breath through that thing?”
This was the figure who suddenly filled my door frame vibrating with rage. He had watched me stagnantly piss away my summer and was about to inform me this joyous era of my life was coming to an abrupt close. There was a cadence to his speech not unlike an artillery battery firing.
The walls vibrated as he loudly pointed out I had no job, was not registered for school, and had no prospects to speak of. With disgust he noted I had become physically soft. Prior to graduation I had run track at school as well as karate, and weight lifting on my own time. Since graduation I had not so much as stepped outside while the sun was up. He announced that I would have a job within 30 days or he would throw me out into the street.
“It’ll break your mother’s heart but I’ll do it!” He stormed away leaving the doorframe scorched and smoking behind him.
Still being a teenager, I was naturally outraged at my father for threatening to throw me out of MY home and forcing me to be a productive citizen. What a dick.
The month of August ticked away. I hardly saw or spoke to my dad that month, seeking to avoid him as much as possible. On the night of August 30 my parents were in their bedroom and my father was agonizing about what he was about to do to his son.
“Honey, I don’t want to but he’s going to make me kick him out,” he confided to my mother.
“Why?” she asked him.
“It’s the end of the month and he hasn’t gotten a job!”
“What do you mean? He’s been working for weeks now.” I’d started working at a print shop sometime in mid August, I simply hadn’t told him. Take that dad.
“MIKE! YOU SON OF A BITCH!” He stomped down the hallway to the kitchen where I was.
“YOU WERE GOING TO LET ME SWEAT IT OUT!” Grinning and scowling at the same time, he was simultaneously ticked off, relieved, and impressed. We talked about my new job and he explained that as long as I had a job or was going to school I would always have a place to stay in his house. There would be no deadbeats under my father’s roof.
Thanks for the lesson dad, I think it stuck.