Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Provider and A Protector

Father's Day has come and gone and my dad just celebrated his 74th birthday.  I'm so thankful for the positive influences that he's had on my life.  I firmly believe that my father was put on this earth for two things.  And those two things are all he's done his entire life. He seems to only get enjoyment out of seeing everything and everyone taken care of. Well, I take that back. He also gets enjoyment out of his occasional afternoon naps.
However, his main purposes in life is to be a provider and a protector. Is that old school way of thinking dead to us now?

I remember when I was in 1st grade and my mom would wake me up for school, I'd hear my father walking through the house and getting ready for work. He didn't have to be there until 7 AM, but he was usually out of the house shortly after 6 AM despite it only being a 15 minute drive. He didn't believe in being late for anything. He would take cold cuts and crackers for his lunch because he didn't require much. He brought his paycheck home to my mom to take care of the household and kept very little for himself. He only needed gas for his truck and enough to buy something to eat to hold him over until dinner time.

After working in a factory from 7 AM - 4 PM, I can remember hearing his truck driving across the railroad tracks as he entered the neighborhood. Our dogs would start barking because they knew the sound of his truck. They also knew that it was time for them to eat as well. My older brother and I would be sitting on the floor doing homework or watching cartoons by the time he got home. He would sometimes come into the house, drop his keys on the couch near the door and would just start dancing. My father's dancing style was (and still is) very similar to a one "George Jefferson" from the popular 70's sitcom "The Jeffersons." As he would dance, he would say, "Work it out, Pop!" I'm not sure where that saying came from, but it ultimately became the reason my brother and I have called him "Pop" for as long as we can remember.

After his performance, I would grab my shoes while he was taking time to greet my mom. She was usually putting the finishing touches on dinner when he got home. If she had to work late then my grandmother (on my mom's side) would be finishing up dinner for all of us. Before settling down to eat, Pop would go back outside to feed the dogs and I was right behind him as he walked out of the house. After a long day of work, he could have easily gotten fed up with a 6 year old following his every movement. In fact, that's kind of how I got the childhood nickname "Shadow."

But he never ran me off. I'd watch him feed the dogs and refill their water dishes. Afterwards, he would do one of many things that may have been needed around the house from changing the oil in the vehicles to working in my grandmother's garden where she grew vegetables year around. Despite a day that started out at 6 AM, Pop would work until it got dark outside on most days. His reward? A full stomach from a delicious dinner and watching TV until after the news went off.

He did this for 20+ years for sometimes six days a week. Going to work for Challenger Electric/GTE wasn't Pop's job. Being "Pop" was his job. And he took it seriously.

But he was (and still is) more than just "Pop". He is also "Uncle Leroy" or "Mr. Leroy" to kids in the neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood knows my father. He's the one who will give you a popsicle in the summertime when you're a good kid, but will also chastise you for being a disrespectful kid. You have to say "yes or no, sir" when addressing him. You have to say "thank you" when receiving something from him. Any sign of disrespect will pretty much get you banned from the property regardless of your age.

Pop believes in a natural order to things and that includes a kid knowing his/her place. Step out of line around adults and you'll quickly get reminded that you are a kid. Another thing that makes Pop an icon in the neighborhood is that despite his generosity and willingness to help, he has a temper. Not necessarily a fly-off-the-handle type of temper, but a temper nonetheless. His tolerance for foolishness is extremely low.  He does not tolerate anyone messing with his family.

My brother and I took different paths from a lot of the other kids in my neighborhood. My neighborhood has turned out drug dealers, rapists, and even a murderer or two. But, none of those guys every brought that mess to our house. Because they knew what Pop would do to them if they did anything to negatively influence or harm me or my brother. No police force would be able to stop him from getting to that person. He made that known to the small-time criminals who were once my friends that they were no longer welcomed at our house.

I once thought that they developed other interests and stopped coming around because of that, but as I got into my teens I realized that they stopped coming around because of Pop. They knew that if they attempted to get me ormy brother caught up in their lifestyles that Pop would come after them. However, he didn't just want to save me and my brother from that element, he also wanted to save them as well. I remember as a 10 year old that a friend of mine from around the corner came by to play. He'd recently gotten in trouble for stealing a pair of skates from the nearby skating rink. Pop was aware of the incident and when he came home from work and saw us outside playing he was upset with the boy. He asked him if he stole the skates and the boy admitted that he did. Pop scolded him about stealing and gave him a firm lecture while I watched uncomfortably. He told him how thieves ended up in jail or shot while trying to take someone's property. He told him that he needed to get his life together, but until then, thieves weren't welcomed in his yard.  The boy left and ultimately never came back. He eventually got sent to prison a couple of years later and someone killed him in jail when he was in his late teens.

So, the bad elements simply stayed away from our house and my friends eventually changed. The guys that he couldn't talk any sense into got older, but they never lost respect for Pop. Many houses got broken into in our neighborhood, but never ours. Many kids got "jumped" by so-called "gang members," but never me or my brother. Many arugments and fights took place in my neighborhood, but they were never in front of our house.

At 74 years old, Pop is still the same as he was when I was a kid. He's a taxi for my 92 year old grandmother (mom's side) to make sure she makes it to all of doctor's appointments and to church. He's always the one that people in the neighborhood call when they have car trouble. He's the one that a 3rd generation of kids refer to as "Uncle Leroy" when they want a popsicle on a hot day. And despite living by himself, when he's away from home for long periods of time, nearby neighbors (some with criminal records) watch his home to ensure that nothing happens to it.

My father has his flaws and he's far from perfect. Like many of us, he's made some mistakes in his life that he undoubtedly regrets. But, although I am self-sufficient and living my own life just a few miles away from the old neighborhood, he would be there if I ever needed him for anything. He's still a provider and a protector. It's what keeps him going. And even at 43 years old, I'm still hoping to be just like my Pop.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

5 Things That Make a Relationship Work

We are born into this world as selfish beings.  A baby wants to do what they want when they want.  They will cry when they can't have their way.  Over time, they are taught to appreciate and love those who have their best interest at heart.  Until society teaches them otherwise.

Is making a relationship work as difficult as most people make it out to be?  It's two people who love being together more than they love being apart.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, not so fast, Speedy Gonzales.  The hardest part of a relationship is finding someone with the same level of commitment that you have.  The same mindset.  The same goals in mind.

You can't control what others do, but there are some things that you can do to ensure that you're holding up your end of things:

1. Are you paying attention?

Listening is very important in relationships.  It helps to understand your mate's mindset and it allows you to be comforting in times of need.  You should know a lot about your mate from their childhood experiences to what their work day was like.  If you're not an authority of your mate's info like clothes sizes, high school's name, and simple things of that nature then you're either not asking the right questions or you're not paying attention.  Knowing simple things can go a long way towards showing someone that you care enough to know their experiences.

2. Are you being dependable?

I don't know about some, but this is huge for me.  You have to be reliable if you're going to be in a successful relationship.  If "oh, I forgot" or "I got tied up" becomes your answer to a lot of reasons you failed to do something then expect your mate to eventually check out on you.  No one wants to be with someone who they don't trust to do what they say they're going to do.  We all know what it's like to be disappointed and it's not a pleasant feeling when a person shows you that they don't care.  Be reliable.  Be supportive.  Be there when the person needs you to be.

3. Are you thoughtful?

This is something that seems to fly right over the heads of so many Americans today.  Thoughtfulness.  We're subconsciously trained to think of ourselves so much that we rarely take time to think of others.  You should always look to brighten your mate's day.  Well, to be honest, you should and brighten anyone's day, but we're focusing on relationships here.  Surprise them with a home cooked meal, massage their feet, or something of that nature.  Pay attention to small details and cater to your mate.  Nothing makes a mate feel more emotionally secure than you showing effort to make them happy.  You don't even have to be present to do it.  Sending flowers to their job or buying them something they need/want shows that you care.  What says "love" more than showing that you thought of a person when they weren't even present?

4. Are you giving them what they want?

Everyone has a guilty pleasure that is more enjoyable when done with a loved one than alone.  However, it may only be something that your mate may enjoy and you could care less about it.  Whatever it may be, do it.  Maybe your mate likes a show that you don't care for.  Who cares?  Watch it with them and make them happy.  It could be an art show that he/she wants to attend.  Don't just go, show interest and make sure your attitude is a positive one.  And of course, it could be something physical/sexual that doesn't bring you pleasure, but pleases them.  Do it right and do it often.  Give it your 100%.  Being in love is as much about giving as it is receiving.  In fact, it's more about giving.  Everyone communicates what makes them happy or unhappy and we just need to pay attention and give it to them.

5. Are you being honest?

Sounds easy, but some people struggle with this.  Not necessarily because they're intentionally deceiving their mate, but because they're deceiving themselves.  So many people don't truly know what they want in a relationship yet they'll jump into one without a goal in mind.  This is one of the reasons why divorce rates are so high these days.  It's not a good idea to figure out how to swim after you've jumped in the water.  A lot of us are infatuated with the idea of being in a relationship despite the fact that we're not ready for one.  Be honest in evaluating yourself and knowing what you want.  It can prevent a lot of stress and heartache down the line.

Conclusion:

You may be asking yourself, "What makes him the authority on making a relationship work?"  Well, I'm not an expert.  I just have an opinions.  However, I've discussed this with enough people in my life and read enough blog posts, social media statuses, and other things to know what people say they want.  It's pretty common knowledge what people say they want in a relationship, but how many are willing to do what it takes to achieve that?  Only about 50% of us if you look at today's divorce rate.

People date for many reasons: they enjoy having someone in their company, they want "something to do" until something better comes along, or maybe they're genuinely looking for a life companion.  This blog post doesn't apply to the first two because they are self-serving.  This post is meant to be a blueprint for those truly looking for love.  For if you do those five things and your mate reciprocates, then how could the two of you not be happy?

Good luck out there!


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