Shut Up & Lift


I have one truly good friend. He's been my best buddy since high school, and remains so to this day. That we are friends amazes many; he is conservative, slow to move, cautious and reserved in both his manner and his speech. I on the other hand have always been reckless, more than willing to voice my opinions, even when they alienate others and have a "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" attitude about everything in life. He likes to spread out risk, move slowly before making a decision. I pick up the dice and roll the whole bundle every time.

Our common bond comes from our fathers, both Depression-era hard-asses who raised their children with a firm hand. My dad was a combat vet of Europe, his father slogged it through the jungles of the Pacific in deadly combat with the Japanese. His father labored like a sled dog as a milkman, back in the days when you had the affordable convenience of having milk, butter, eggs & cheese delivered to your doorstep at your discretion. My dad was a butcher by trade, and spent long hours at back-breaking work to support his family. Our fathers knew each other and respected each other. They were old school, and unafraid to put a boot up their son's asses if it was called for. And it was called for. A lot.

They expected their sons to man up and accept responsibility. Like working for a living, and putting bread on the table for their wives and children. And not laying a hand in anger on their wives. And not making excuses for their own bad behavior. This was instilled in their sons at an early age, and we were expected to toe that hard but very simple mark. It wasn't easy living up to them, and it still isn't. Every day when I make what I consider to be a poor decision, I look over my shoulder expecting to see my father, disapproving frown curling his brow. Or worse yet, receiving a cuff up side the head from his muscular hand. No chance of either, though; my father has been in his grave for seven years. The memory of him, and his hard and simple life's lessons, are so strong that they color my own decisions to this day.

I live with my 18-year-old son, and the difference between his generation and mine are in your face and to an old hard-liner like myself, appalling. He was for all intents and purposes separated from his father for five years, and grew up without a father's influence. I blame myself for this, but whatever the case he is with me now and I am attempting to instill those values upon him that my father drummed into me. It isn't as easy, though. A slap upside the head these days is not only counter productive but can also find a parent on the wrong side of the law. So much parental authority has been usurped by those in charge that a caring mom or dad is hesitant to apply any parental authority, whether a hand to the backside or a trip to the bedroom without supper. The "Usurpers" have also told parents that they are too stupid or too lazy to feed their children properly, or teach them the proper life's lessons, and they have removed these troublesome aspects of parenthood from the parents and transferred them to the public schools. To make it easier we also over diagnose ADD and ADHD and ply our very young with mind-numbing pills to make them more suppliant to those who make the rules. It has all become such a circus of mismanagement that I sometimes wonder why people would even desire to have children these days.

I've enjoyed the pleasure of my son's company for the past 18 months, and it has been rough. He's coming around, slow but sure. He's working full-time, and I'll have him back in school so he can get his high school diploma and move on to higher education, or perhaps learn a viable trade. That of course will be his decision. That is part of the dad process, too. Expecting your daughters and sons to mature enough to make their own decisions in their adult lives. He is washing his own clothes and learning how to cook his own meals. I'm on him like a bum on a baloney sandwich at all times, and he protests mightily, but he does it in the end. I explain to him when he asks me why I'm so relentless that I'm dad and that's what good dads do. He doesn't quite understand it now, but he will, probably long after I'm gone, or when he has children of his own.

Back to my buddy. Another of our common bonds has been pumping iron, and we both became incredibly proficient at it; he as a body builder, me as an Olympic-style weightlifter. We were good at the discipline it takes to excel in these demanding endeavors. That discipline is thanks to our upbringing, and we still hammer away at the gym 5-6 days a week, in spite of our advancing years. It's become habit, and a damned good one, I might add. We were pumping iron at the gym and I found myself complaining mightily about my son; whether he would straighten up, man up, understand what it takes to be an adult . . . I was doing so much whining that I didn't realize that I was getting on my pal's nerves. Right in the middle of one of my self-serving polemics he stared me square in the eye and said, "Shut up and lift."

Shut up and lift. Four words simply delivered and yet so on the mark. I could almost see the ghost of his old man behind him as he spoke, and the spirit of my own father behind him.

Shut up and lift. I can only hope that my own son experiences that uncomplicated epiphany. It needs no scientific explanation, or high-priced study, or bar chart or pie chart, or draconian piece of legislation or punitive taxation to force you into compliance.

Shut up and lift. It's called life, and in spite of our bloviated modern protestations, it hasn't changed much since the time of the pharaohs, has it?

I shut up. And I lifted.

And so should all of us.

Lenny Palmer 8/28/2011


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