Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Blessings of a Curse

I remember it vividly. Amy and I had been married about a year and we decided we had to buy a home. Living in the rental hovel was fine when I was single, but with four new family members, three of whom were actually growing as evidenced by the fact that I was running out to buy new shoes every few weeks, a two bedroom one bath house wasn't going to cut it.

One night, we were driving around looking at houses crammed into Amy's horrible smelling, smoke belching, tiny red Mitsubishi Précis which was actually a Hyundai - oh, that wacky Korean sense of humor. The kids were small, and all three were squeezed into the area we laughably referred to as the back seat. As usual they were paying no attention whatsoever to what Amy and I were saying, much less to what we were doing. They were talking, laughing, squirming amongst themselves, oblivious to anything else although they occasionally commented on how bad the car smelled.

I had known our children for about two years, and had accepted the fact they were going to ignore me. In truth, they started tuning me out almost as soon as they met me - even as little boogers they were bright.

I didn't take it personally; I figured I'd grow on them eventually...sort of like mold.

Anyway, Amy decided she wanted a diet coke; as she is want to do 3 to 8 minutes into any car trip even if we have a full cooler of drinks in the car. She wanted a fountain drink with the right type of ice, so I pulled into a convenience store/gas station. As we drove through the parking lot though, I noticed a commotion of some sort going on inside the store.

That's when it happened.

I said to Amy, "What the Hell is going on here?"

To this day, I don't know the answer to that question.

That's because it was met with a stark sudden silence usually reserved to follow statements like, "I saw you, you know" or " Would you like to rethink that answer before I call the state's other witness?"

The noisy atmosphere of the car was sucked away instantly. It happened so fast, it quite literally scared me. I thought I had missed a gunshot or a sudden display of nudity. I started looking around in confusion, only to be met by six very wide eyes and three small, yet gaping mouths in the back seat.

Then it dawned on me.

The kids had heard me say, "Hell."

At this point I should mention that until I met Amy and the kids I cussed like a banshee and never gave it a second thought. I work among people who can easily compete with any sailor when it comes to spewing profanity and I could probably have held my own with the best of them. However I also am cognizant of the fact that there are times when such language is ill advised. When I realized I was going to be a stepfather I worked very hard to shield the children from that side of my vocabulary. I didn't simply hide it; I fought to break myself of the habit. For the most part I succeeded. I didn't cuss at home or at work....although admittedly I did a bit of backsliding amid the traffic jams in between....still do.

I ended up quickly apologizing to the kids, explaining that I didn't normally talk that way, and being the wonderful children they were then - and despite my influence they remain to this day - they quickly forgave me and went back to doing what they do best...ignoring me.

But I'll never forget that night. It was momentous.

It was wonderful.

On a scale of one to ten, "hell" is maybe a one in terms of curse words. In truth, even though they were still very young, all of the kids had heard such language before either in school, in movies, or on TV.

The difference that night was they heard the word coming out of my mouth.

And that's why I'll always cherish the moment.

It was then I knew they held me to a different standard...the higher standard of a parent.

Hell, I was in Heaven.