I’m not usually the type of person to step into someone else’s beef, but yesterday I did. And I don’t regret it.
I was out with my friend yesterday taking in a quiet afternoon of peace by calming water. We took a respite to center ourselves, to find stillness for a few hours and to connect with our aching hearts amid this world of uncertainty and mass confusion. At some point as we stood on the beach with our toes digging in the sand and the water coming up onto our feet and ankles, my black friend told me she always feels comfortable in my home. She told me my parents are nice and welcoming. I’m not sure I responded to her with more than a nod of acknowledgement because I was relieved my black friend could say this to me freely and honestly. The statement stands out in the middle of the afternoon for me. She returned me home and walked in the house with me, helping me carry in the bags and chair I had brought. And before getting back on the road, she asked to use our bathroom.
We walked out of my house together, saying our goodbyes when we noticed there was a mess of a snowball, a red syrupy snowball all over my front door, steps, sidewalk, and my father. He had been sitting out front with the dogs. Sitting out on your front stoop after dinner as the sun sets is a very Baltimore thing to do. Many of my neighbors were out on their front stoops too.
As my friend got in her car and drove away, I asked “What’s all this?” A few neighbors and my father proceeded to tell me how someone walking down the street was frightened by my dog and they threw their snowball at him.
My father’s no saint. Let me just say it now. But none of us are.
He’s also 70 and has no filter. He’s not very different from others his age who grew up and had it rough. I grew up with this man, I know how he is. And I do know that yes, he has a very sharp tongue. I’ve been warning him for years that he needs to check himself. But this time there is the blood-red ice of evidence all over my home and father, along with the discarded cup. And it’s fallen on us to clean it up.
I grabbed my phone and I jumped on Facebook, not my norm btw, on to our neighborhood community page and I wrote a post. “Never have I ever in my 47 years living here …” The post had comments rolling in faster than I could read them. And then the person who threw the snowball private messaged me. He went on to tell me that he and his family (including his children and dogs) were walking down the street and my father called him a name. He told me he asked my father not to call him names. He went on to write that he did nothing more than that. (It was not the “N” word, btw, the snowball slinger is not black).
But he did do something more than that. He threw a messy cup of red, sticky, syrupy ice at my home and at my father.
Mind you, the entire event happened in the amount of time it took for me and my friend to carry a bag and a chair into the house, and use the bathroom to pee.
I was wowed.
So something’s not quite adding up. And the three neighbors who were standing with my father explaining to me what happened, that’s not what they said either.
I believe the snowball slinger. But. I also KNOW this: My father does not say such things unless he is provoked.
So even though I did not actually witness the event, here is my surmisation. My 13 mo puppy, who is very much attached to me, was chained to our front stoop, became extremely hyper and excited to see me (as he always does) and was jumping around and barking to get at me. But like we do, I passed him to drop the bags in the house and get my friend ready to leave. My ignoring him only made him more excited.
People mistake my dog for what he is because of his size — he’s a 110lb. puppy. They see his size and they assume he’s an adult dog. But he’s only 13 months old and he is very much a puppy! That’s a lot of energy behind that size and strength. Trust me, we know! He’s jumping on us all the time and knocking us about. We deal with him constantly. He’s a lot of dog. A lot of puppy! And when he’s that excited, it’s very hard to manage him. And that is what my neighbors and my father told me he was trying very hard to do, manage the puppy.
I’m guessing Mr. snowball slinger told my father to control the dog when he walked by, instead of crossing or walking in the street like most everyone else does who walks past our house. THAT would be the ONLY reason my father would say something to someone he doesn’t know. No one can tell my father what he can or cannot do, or should or should not do. On his property. Period.
Another thing about my father is, he tells it like it is. Yeah, he can be an asshole, but it’s never unwarranted. His fault lies in not being good at being passive. He’s not a teacher or a Zen master. He’s not book smart or college educated. He grew up in a rough era in a big city. He was a blue-collar worker who loyally held the same labor-intensive job for 53 years, and he recently retired. His tongue is sharp, but he doesn’t fabricate anything, either. And he’s definitely not a bully. His world is very real to him. He’s lived a hard life being bullied himself, shut down again and again by the other blue collars, and my father has spent his life on his defense.
Hurt people hurt people.
Now there’s a goddamned sticky red snowball all over my house and father, and it’s staining his white shirt.
This morning, I chose to delete the post on Facebook. Not because I want it to go away, but because I needed to do better than that.
The reactions and the comments to the post and against my father were all over the place — from neighbors who have unhealthy obsessions with us because they can’t control us — like the woman who snapped her fingers in my face on more than one occasion and demanded something of me, and I said no. Others who chimed in were neighbors who we’ve had to complain about for partying in the alley, or on their rooftop decks at full volume until all hours of the night when we were trying to sleep and had to be up in the next few hours for work. All they want is their right to party at 2am and be obnoxiously drunk. Neighbors with righteous attitudes who just moved in and think they’re better than everyone else because their homes are sterile environments and their cars are more expensive. Joining in the comments was the neighbor who watched my black friend as she parked her car on my street — they looked her in the eye and then proceeded to hit her car. And the neighbor who yelled at me when I was standing in front of my house, watched me as I hooked my dog’s leash to his collar, and then threatened me with words and told me about leash laws. And then there’s the neighbor who three days after I broke my wrist and had a fresh cast on and still extremely sore and swollen, who looked at me and reminded me that I still had two hands when I asked him if he could lift the trash can lid so that I could discard my dog’s poop bag (which he didn’t do). Then there’s the neighbor who transferred blamed to me at the dog park for leaving the gate open, because they assumed I was going in there when I wasn’t, so they left the gate open. The neighbors who drive down the street at full speed like they’re on the autobahn — um we live on a small peninsula and literally every street ends at the next block. Where are you rushing to?! Who are you trying to impress? There are families walking across the streets with their small children and pets. Do you know how many times I’ve almost been hit because you don’t believe that stop sign should apply to you? This is just in the recent few months. Do you want me to go on?
My father is no saint, but while all of you liquor lovers sleep it off in the morning, he walks the neighborhood and he cleans the gutters of all the leaves and trash. He pulls the weeds in the sidewalk and repairs cracks in your bricks. He trims the trees. And my father collects the discarded beer cans and bottles and snack bags that you left all over our park and in the grass. Do you think there is a trash fairy? Every day you return to the park and leave a trail and every morning that trash is gone. That trash fairy would be my father. He collects an extra two cans of trash a week that the city doesn’t pick up, and he drives it to the dump himself. My father respects his environment and prefers to enjoy a clean park and have clean, well kept streets. How about you give him a thank you the next time you see him.
All of the lost and left behind sunglasses, hats, balls and bikes are collected, and it’s my father who collects them and sets them on the corners and the tree boxes for you to find. No one is aware of my fathers actions because he doesn’t need attention or recognition for a good deed done. He’s more than happy to do it. He does it because he takes pride in where he lives, where he was born and raised.
Everyone fought to have the city build a public toilet in our park. It was built, we paid for it, but the doors never opened. My father calls the city and asks why, because he’s sick of watching you all pee on the trees and footpaths.
For those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with where I live, it is a prominent neighborhood built on a peninsula. It is small, only a few blocks wide and a few blocks deep. A neighborhood that’s a mix of traditional rowhomes built around 1900 to new homes just built in the last few years as we progressed away from a more industrial setting and into a more intended affluence. Homes in this neighborhood range from $350K to $1M., and the home for a few professional NFL and MLB players. This is not a low income community. It is a community of people who are considered average or more financially.
We’ve never thrown anything at you, damaged any of your property, or hurt any of you physically. All my father is guilty of is speaking his truth. You’re the one who showed your child it’s okay to throw things at people when you disagree with them. You’re the one who chose to create a spectacle. Last week you were telling me how much of a sweetheart my father is, and yesterday you were calling him a racist. Joking or not, how many times do you refer to others as Bitches?
Both men were right. Both men were wrong.
Yes, I wish my father would find a better way to express himself, it’s more than awful. But it’s time you do too. What again made it ok for you to throw a snowball at someone? Instead of finding compassion in his struggle, you added to it. You chose to throw a snowball at him because you don’t understand that you have emotional baggage that needs healing. Neither man in this story understands this. We all need to understand this. We all need to find compassion for each other, and act neighborly. And we need to begin the process of forgiveness and healing, and become the type of people who respond instead of react. We all want change, but no one dares to acknowledge their responsibilities or their contributing behaviors. It’s always someone else’s fault. NO. It’s not! Be a part of the solution, not the problem.