When my father used to talk about the kind of husband my sister Patti and I would eventually find and settle into happiness with, he often described a sort of professorial man of academic bent who would be a hybrid Philosopher Poet, probably another English teacher or even a writer or college instructor who would be quite similar to us. He may never have said so, but I got the impression that this man would also be older than us as well, though not by too terribly much, and down-to-earth, but certainly not earthy or crude, my father's most hated personality trait.
As you can probably guess, neither Patti nor myself married such a man. Her husband is a business manager whose politics have always run somewhat counter to those of my late father, a blue-collar union man. Their discussions used to get passionate and heated, and my mother and Patti would practically have to drag in firehoses or, at the very least, send in the children en masse armed with storybooks and Overwhelming Cuteness to defuse the situation. My husband Rick is a carpenter by trade, and he has probably read a handful of books all the way through in his lifetime without growling, none of them recently.
It is important to note here that my father graduated high school, was drafted, and afterward went to college briefly on the G.I. Bill. He did not stay long. After the War, college felt alien to him, I guess, and Getting On With His Life meant something else entirely.
Anyway. The husbands/sons-in-law.
Both of them were obviously not what Dad had intended at all. But both of us heard, via our mother (Dad's favourite conduit) that it was okay. I can't speak for my sister in this case, but I can, of course, say plenty with regard to mine. My dad never doubted for a moment that Rick and I loved each other; I knew that. And even though we were So Incredibly Young (eighteen when we met; twenty-two when we married!), it was clear that we weren't making an impetuous decision.
No, the big factor for Dad was Respect. "Your father can tell that Rick really respects you," my mother said to me. "He can see that he cares for you, yes, but it's the way he listens to you and looks at you when you talk. He knows you're smart, and he's not intimidated by that. He treats you like it's a partnership. That's what's really important to your father."
My father was terribly hard on all of us kids as we were growing up, and there were times that I used to stomp upstairs to my bedroom and hate him mightily for hours, days, even weeks on end. It wasn't that I didn't understand why, either. He always made sure we understood exactly why he said what he said or was disappointed in or angry at us. (We were never hit, ever.) That didn't mean we didn't think it was stupid or ridiculous, or unfair, or so Not Like Anyone Else's Parents. But we did always feel loved, valued, and above all, respected our entire lives.
I'm glad. Respect should be an enormous part of Love. I'm grateful that my parents taught me that and modeled that for me, and I hope that I have effectively done the same for Sam and Jared. I hope I did as much for my students, too.
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