Growing up I spent a lot of time living with my grandparents. I would like to think this was my parents way of making sure I developed a greater appreciation of my ancestors and formed a close bond with their parents. Considering my nickname growing up was Rowdy I am beginning to think that they sent me off just so they could get a break from the terror that somehow followed me wherever I went.
My grandmother was a sweet lady who was always trying to instill wisdom upon me. One of her favorite sayings was, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” She was a master of the cliché but she meant well. She would constantly remind me that I needed to look beyond the flashy exterior and look for the good in people.
My grandfather on the other hand was more of a realist. Whenever my grandmother would utter that phrase he would be quick to add, “yeah but ugly cuts clear to the core!” That would immediately change the mood and result with a shaking of a wooden spoon and a reminder of what it meant to be a role model. I have to admit, the older I get the more I appreciate my grandfather’s understanding of the world. I’ll never forget him sitting me down as I reached the age of dating and gave me some very sound advice.
“Rowdy, when the time comes to take a girl’s hand in marriage I want you to remember my words. Always try to marry a fat tattooed lady. You get warmth in the winter, shade in the summer, and moving pitchers all year long.”
I wasn’t exactly sure I understood what he was saying but I did take his advice. No, I didn’t marry an overweight girl and I didn’t even find one with a tattoo. But I did what he said; I remembered his words. I hope one day to pass this valuable advice on to my son in hopes that he will heed the advice as well.
I more or less glossed over the whole beauty and ugly discussion which was lost in the back of my mind somewhere between diagramming a sentence and solving for “x” using the Pythagorean Theorem; that is until today.
By the third week in January the memories of Christmas and gift giving have been replaced by the frightening reminder of the credit card bill. We tend to even forget what exactly we got on Christmas morning. There may even be times where we remember more what we didn’t get than what we did receive.
As a kid I had a ritual. Shortly after the school year started the Sears Christmas catalog would arrive at our house. It was an event my brother and I looked forward to each fall. We would retrieve the book from the mailbox then spend hour after hour perusing each page making a list of things we found.
We would begin with subtle hints to our parents of something that would not only bring us joy but make their lives easier by not having to hear how bored we were. We raised hinting to an art form. The subtlety would give way to blatant begging after Thanksgiving then pleading with Santa Claus at the local mall. We would leave nothing to chance. There was just no way our parents could not know what we wanted for Christmas.
As I’ve gotten older, it appears my hinting powers have diminished much like my eyesight. The hints I give now don’t result in finding that new Diamondbacks hat under the tree or even the latest Sedona Red jacket in the brightly colored box.
This year was no different. Despite my secretly written list inside my wife’s favorite magazine or coaching kids to tell others what I might like I find myself wondering why I didn’t get that special Dbacks gear I desired.
There comes a point where a man has to take matters into his own hands. This year I decided I would just buy something, wrap it and put my name on the gift. I spent hours forging my wife’s handwriting so it looked like she had bought and wrapped it.
As Christmas wound down and the gifts were all unwrapped there remained one under the tree. The kids retrieved the box and read the tag. To: Dad From Mom. My wife had a blank look on her face. The tag looked like her handwriting but she didn’t remember wrapping it or even buying it. I chalked it up to her getting old which likely was one of the reasons I would be sleeping on the couch again.
I eagerly unwrapped the gift and tore open the box. I let out an excited squeal and stood there with the gift dancing around. When I looked up all eyes were on me. It was not a normal look on their faces; this was more the kind of look you see on the crowds’ faces when they are looking at a rather grisly accident.
After a rather uncomfortable silence one of the kids finally asked, “What is that thing?” How could they even ask that? It was pretty obvious what this was but it looked like they were kind of expecting an answer. “It’s a sweater,” I said.
My wife immediately exclaimed, “That is not from me! There is absolutely no way I would have bought THAT!” The comment struck me as odd.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
My daughter attempted to help, “That is about the ugliest sweater I have ever seen!” she said. I looked around the room and everyone seemed to be nodding in agreement. I remembered my grandmother and quickly said, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
My son quickly countered with, “Yeah but ugly is clear to the core.” I knew I shouldn’t have had that talk with him.
It didn’t matter; I didn’t really care what they thought. This was the coolest sweater I have ever seen and I planned on wearing it every chance I got. When I suggested that, I got one of those “oh no you won’t” looks from my wife. I know that look; I see it on a daily basis.
So now it’s a marital battle. She hides my sweater deep in the closet and I do my best Indiana Jones impression and retrieve it from the closet of doom. I think I’m wearing her down. She doesn’t cry anymore when I wear it. Who knows, by baseball season she may even walk along side of me in public. She doesn’t know what she’s missing. Every time we leave the house I can see husbands and wives looking longingly at my sweater secretly wishing they had one just like it.