Be glad your nose is on your face,
not pasted on some other place,
for if it were where it is not,
you might dislike your nose a lot.
Imagine if your precious nose
were sandwiched in between your toes,
that clearly would not be a treat,
for you’d be forced to smell your feet.
Your nose would be a source of dread
were it attached atop your head,
it soon would drive you to despair,
forever tickled by your hair.
Within your ear, your nose would be
an absolute catastrophe,
for when you were obliged to sneeze,
your brain would rattle from the breeze.
Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
remains between your eyes and chin,
not pasted on some other place–
be glad your nose is on your face!
“Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face” by Jack Prelutsky
Reflection. Today is a day not so ordinary for me. Today I find myself in silent reflection over a collage of memories spanning five decades. Ugh, I said it. A jagged horse-pill in some ways, but in others a medal of honor. A question I sometimes ask myself is this, “Would you change anything?” Before marriage, having children, and then going through a painful divorce, my youthful perfectionist side would answer abso-frickin-lutely!
Yet, as I reminisce there are so many things I would not change. And upon this realization, I sit….quietly and peacefully, and honestly a wee-bit uncomfortably. It is such a strange bag of life I’ve collected filled with (but not full) a plethora of emotions. I am finding on this familiar date that as I reach inside to pick what I want to keep, I honestly do not want to discard anything, no matter how painful the memory might be. Why is that? Does that make me masochistic? Why would I want to make my bag “heavier”? And then it hits me.
My father, as much as he was a mentally tough ex-marine perfectionist, one day taught me in his own imperfect way a painfully invaluable life lesson. I believe I was eleven or twelve years old. I was mowing, trimming hedges, and edging our neighbor’s yard while they were away. I was using their lawn equipment because if I had used our lawn equipment, Dad was going to charge me a rental-fee. The edger my neighbors owned was the single-cylinder side-mounted blade on two wheels you would carefully guide between the concrete and the edge of the grass. I had never used one of these machines. When I finished edging the entire yard, I looked around the machine for the power-switch. Nothing. Not any sort of button or lever that even resembled a power-switch. Placing the still running machine in a safe position, I went to get Dad for help.
When we returned to the running edger, he pointed to and explained that the L-shaped metal lever next to the exposed spark-plug cut the electrical circuit running through the engine. He told me push and hold the lever onto the spark-plug and the engine will simply die. Wow! Easy enough, so I reached down put my finger on the metal lever, pushed it onto the spark-plug….and WHAM! The most violent electrical shock I had ever experienced in my life! My arms were shaking and trying to seize up. In utter astonishment I looked up at my Dad wondering…what did I do wrong? He told me again, push the metal lever onto the spark-plug and hold it there until the engine dies. I think to myself I haven’t corrected anything I did before. But out of total trust and obedience for my father, I pushed it down again….longer this time to try and kill that engine! WHAM but now for 3-4 more violent seconds! In tears I look up again at my Dad, shocked that his instructions were not working and more shocked that he was repeating the same instructions….”Turn it off” he said. Again, I tried and again the same result but for a second or two longer. I am now bawling. My hands and arms are quivering on the verge of seizure. I am scared shitless and I want the pain to just go away.
Calmly and compassionately my father finally changed his instruction and pointed to my other hand, “Do you see where your other hand is? See what it is holding?” Through my tear-drenched eyes I looked over and noticed I was holding the metal part of the handle bars. I was completing the circuit from my hand, to the lever, through the spark-plug, through the mounted engine, through those handle bars, into my other hand and into my body. ”Move your hand onto the plastic” he said “and then cut the engine off.” It stopped almost immediately.
For the next hour or so I hated my father. I wanted to pound on him in anger. But with each passing year and each passing decade, I understand more and more how unimaginably valuable that very painful lesson was for me. It was painful not only in respecting the lethal power of electricity, but perhaps more importantly for making me realize that painful lessons have their merit too. As I reflect back on this familiar day all the beautiful memories I’ve been gifted to experience, I can be equally grateful for the painful lessons and memories — in their weird strange ways they make my cup half full, never half empty. After everything I’ve experienced and everywhere I’ve been these last five decades, I am quite certain that my life could be so much worse. I am grateful for what it has brought me and what is still to come.
I love you and miss you Dad. Thank you.
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