My parents owned a bar and for as long as I can remember, I was about four years old, I used to sit on a bar stool. Most of the children played with their friends or with some of the toys they had. He was always talking to strangers and playing with cases of beer.
It had its advantages, as as I grew up I had a built-in job and really learned to talk to adults. You always had to agree with them because you didn’t want to lose them as a customer. Always polite, always considerate and never giving anyone a hard time, of course I learned to curse like a sailor at a very young age and had a beer when I was about ten years old.
The place had funny and sad characters at the same time. I always thought it was normal for a man to spend 4-5 hours drinking at the end of a work day before going home. Many times as I got older I would take home a guy who was too drunk to drive. When I took him home, I found out why he was spending so much time at the bar after work, his wife was not happy to see him when he got there, not because he was drunk, he just didn’t like the boy.
One of the things I loved as a kid was the fact that there was always cash. I’d ask my dad for a dime or a quarter. He reached into the box and handed it over.
One warm summer afternoon around 5 o’clock, I asked my dad for twenty-five cents. Quickly, he said “No.” I asked him again and he said “No.” I finally said, “Come on, dad, please.”
He did not give up. I got as mad as an 11-year-old could be and walked out past four customers sitting in the curve of the bar by the door. On leaving I called it “CHEAP”. In that moment, I knew I was in trouble.
I tried to think of “cheap” sounding words that I could use to try to convince him that he misheard. Next, I had to find a way to get back inside without him seeing me. Unfortunately, there was only one way to get in … through the bar.
After riding my bike for a while, I decided to try to get past the blockage. When I got back to the bar, the bar was closed! The bar that was open 364 days a year was closed! My father locked the door and called for me to come in. I knocked on the door and he opened it. I asked him to keep the door open so I could bring my bike. He stood there, grabbed my arm and said, “What did you say when you left here?” I told him I said “cheap”.
The grip on my arm tightened and he said, “After all the nickels, dimes and quarters I’ve given you, call me cheap.” I said, “I’m sorry, Dad.” Then he loosened his grip and told me to go up the stairs.
My dad took a break around 7 o’clock for dinner and took a nap until 9pm when he went back to work. Around 8:30 I learned the biggest lesson of my life. He called me into his room and sat me down. My dad said to me “Do you know why I closed the door to the bar after you left?” I said no. “My father told me,” After you left the bar, the four guys who heard what you said started talking about you and how ungrateful and selfish you were. I couldn’t bear it. I had to get them out. sick of hearing them talk about my son like that. “
My dad put those guys in my defense and because of the pain he felt in his heart. My father used my own stupidity as a moment to teach me that I can’t say what I want. Also, I wanted me to understand that if I think someone else hears my comments, it doesn’t matter. Someone listens and begins to develop a perception of you as a person.
I never forgot this lesson. You see, the whole time I thought those guys would ride my dad with the cheap guy they thought he was because he wouldn’t give me a quarter. I was so wrong. Looking at this story, all I can think of is the way children talk to their parents today at a younger age than it was when I called my dad “tight-fisted.” The kids didn’t just wake up one day and decide they were going to be rude to their parents.
This has happened so slowly that it was almost unrecognizable at first, but now we ask ourselves “What are we going to do with these children?” I could have called this essay “Cheap” because of how ironic it is that I called my father cheap in front of his clients when it really wasn’t cheap and I deservedly ended up feeling cheap when my father broke up with me. Even though it’s cheap to sit a kid down and talk to him today like my dad did, does anyone take the time to do it?