Tag Archives: argument

Crazy Lady

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My friend, Red, refers to his wife as “Crazy Lady,” though she’s as sharp as a tack, and he knows it. It sounds like a compliment when he says it.

I’ve been called crazy more than a few times in my life; it wasn’t meant as flattery.

It doesn’t matter; I take it as a positive assessment.

A woman can be labelled crazy for showing strength, determination, stubbornness…or humor.

I’ll accept it.

Most times, I work a little too hard at being in agreement…or at least not flouting my contrary point of view.

I used to be more argumentative. I think we all go through that stage, when we are forming opinions based on our own knowledge and experience, rather than simply what we were taught or told.

It felt powerful, at the time, to challenge ideas that were comfortably in place, in order to assert my own.

It started in Catholic school, questioning  the nuns about rules of dress that determined the length of skirt or the type of sweater allowed. It continued into public high school, where my class staged a successful protest to allow girls to wear slacks. Into young adulthood, I took on bigger issues.

I marched for peace. I joined the National Organization for Women and marched for the Equal Rights Amendment. I wrote dozens of letters to Congressmen with grievances large and small. I boycotted sugar, then meat, then all Nestle products. I quit buying aerosol sprays. I stopped using herbicides.

My actions weren’t outrageous, but my bent toward convincing everyone else was. I was haughty in my righteousness, judgmental, argumentative and crazy in my pursuit of changing minds. Not enough that I choose my own way, it seemed important that I convince others that any other way was wrong.

I shudder to think of that self-righteous loud-mouth now.

It was my wise Aunt Katie that showed me a different way.

My Dad was here on Beaver Island for a visit, and we were arguing. There was no end in sight. I was sure I was being as generous as possible, allowing for his age, and different life experience while holding to my principles. He was sure that I was wrong, and putting on airs to boot. We’d sit down to dinner; something would be said – maybe just a comment on the news from the little TV – and Dad would say, in his most conciliatory voice, inviting my agreement, “See, and you think you’re so gol-damned smart…” and we’d be off again, on our never-ending debate over whatever nonsensical, minor issue seemed so important at the time.

“I know he’s stubborn,” Aunt Katie said, “I grew up with him…and three other brothers.”

“Do you want to know how to win an argument?” she asked.

Did I?! “Yes!”

This is what she told me:

Let him talk. Let him put out his entire argument. Don’t interrupt. Don’t shake your head or even so much as raise an eyebrow. Listen. Let him finish. Lift your arms and let them fall. Bow your head slightly. Look him in the eye. Without a hint of sarcasm, say, “You are absolutely right.”

“But, Aunt Katie, he’s not!”

You will never get him to admit he’s not right. You could argue with him for the rest of your life, he’s not going to be wrong. Even if you express doubt, even if you say “You might have a point,” or “You could be right,” he’ll keep right on arguing. Do what I said, and the argument is over. Then go on and think how you want to anyway. He doesn’t need to know. That’s how I got along with four brothers!

Well, it worked! And it stands to this day as some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

Crazy smart!

Father’s Day

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If I am a good communicator, and I’ve been told that I am, it comes from struggling to hold a conversation with my father. He wasn’t an easy man to talk to. He would announce without hesitation that my opinion was “bullshit” if he thought so. He would often loudly support a contrary viewpoint just for sport. He was quick to anger if he thought we were agreeing with him just to be compliant. Few subjects were worthy of his time and attention.

If I have a work ethic (I’m not always sure that I do!), I got it from my Dad.

Dad was a worker.

He was a good husband and father. He enjoyed all children, and was like a big kid at heart. He loved to tease and he enjoyed a good argument. He had a great memory, and was brilliant at card games because of it. He loved good food, simply prepared. He loved watching things grow. Dad liked John F. Kennedy, Cassius Clay, cowboy shows and Big Time Wrestling. He enjoyed a nap on a Sunday afternoon.

Dad did not like meanness, stupidity, dishonesty or laziness. He didn’t like long hair on boys. He didn’t like music if he couldn’t understand the lyrics, but he made us late to church one Sunday while he listened, with a grin, to “Harper Valley P.T.A.” on the radio. He never learned to swim, so was not especially fond of the water.

My father hated having his picture taken. At Dad’s funeral, my three-year-old grandson, Brandon, looked over the picture board. The only way his photo could be taken without him bellowing was to catch him when he was asleep… so there he was, dozing in his comfortable chair, or stretched out on the sofa, napping with my baby sister, Amy, or snoozing under the apple tree after driving all night to bring us up north. “Papa was dead?”, Brandon asked, as he pointed to one photo after another.

The truest statement I can make about my father, though, is that he was a worker.

He went to work and – when the job demanded it – would work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. On top of that, he’d plow up an acre or so of land and plant a big garden. He raised pigs, and chickens…and an occasional duck or rabbit as well.

Dad often took on extra jobs, for pay or not. He processed deer for hunters. He widened our road to make a shoulder for the children to walk on, on the way to the bus stop. He back-filled the swamp near our house, to keep the mosquito population down. I don’t believe my father ever took a vacation that wasn’t a working vacation. We’d go north to visit his parents on Beaver Island, but his week would be spent painting the farmhouse or tearing down the old barn.

His children were never left out. From their toddling years, the boys were charged with clearing stones and branches from the yard ahead of the mower. Not a stranger to housework, Dad often demonstrated the “correct” way to clean a window or polish the table, then would sit back and watch, to make sure we’d been paying attention.

Springtime was spent preparing the soil and planting the garden. In the summer, we were herded out to the garden to pull weeds out of the stubborn clay soil. In the fall, he’d load us all into the back of his truck with a huge pile of burlap sacks. Arrangements had been made for us to hand pick cob corn from the farmer’s fields, after the mechanical picker had gone through. We’d use the corn to feed our pigs through the winter. It was a long day in the fields, but the ride home was atop mounds of full sacks of corn, and punctuated by a stop at the local tavern, where we’d each be rewarded with a coca cola and a dime for the jukebox. In the winter, Dad would – for lack of anything better to do – build elaborate, icy sledding ramps in our backyard.

As adults, we often disagreed with Dad’s methods and moods but if we needed help with a move, a repair or a remodel, he was on the task.

It’s hard to believe he’s been gone almost fourteen years! If a frost comes late, or I see a coyote, or I count six deer on my way to town, Dad is still the one I want to share that with.

Happy Father’s Day!