Empowered By “No”
My dad believed in the “Power of No.”
“No you’re not going to that Alice Cooper concert.”
“No, you’re not wearing that to school.”
“No, you’re not sleeping in and missing church.”
Never was his “Power of No” more evident then the summer of my sixteenth birthday.
I was nervously waiting at the exam station to take my driving test. Urban legend was that one of the examiners was so intimidating that you crawled out of your skin, which he promptly collected and made into lamp shades.
“Examiner Gein” approached the car holding a black clipboard. He stood behind the vehicle and growled “left signal…………….right signal……..brake”. Thankfully, my mom’s ’71 Chrysler New Yorker passed his visual safety inspection. He entered the car and after thirteen turns, three parks, and a quick stop I was finished. The examiner calculated and recalculated my score as he tapped his pen to a rhythm that I could not identify. However, I vaguely remember hearing it at my Great Aunt Clara’s funeral. After a cold stare that lasted longer than a Baptist sermon he told me that I had passed.
“ I sure hope to hell you don’t think you know how to drive,” he uttered as he exited the car.
Firmly gripping what I believed would be my “ticket to freedom” I went into the license bureau. I was told to place my feet on the blue line and to look at the camera while “Darlene, DMV Clerk” took a photo that was sure to make any law enforcement officer who pulled you over assume you were hiding something in the trunk.
At home that evening my father was sitting in his avocado green Naugahyde recliner watching Archie Bunker. During a commercial break he finally acknowledged my newly acquired license. He stood up and he reached into the pockets of his blue Dickie workpants. I was barely able to contain my excitement when he pulled his hand out, revealing odd coins, lint, a half roll of Tums and….. a set of car keys!
“I suppose you’ll need a car now?” he asked.
However, my enthusiasm was quickly abated when he proceeded to hand me a quarter and state “go buy a newspaper and find a job.”
My dad personified the “Power of No.” At no point in my childhood did I feel that he was my friend. He was my parent, my warden, my disciplinarian, and the “keeper of the keys.” I was acutely aware that my position was at the bottom of the family food chain. When he said “No” it meant “No.”
Looking back, I realize that I have suffered no ill effects from my father’s “Power of No.” I am employed, I am productive and I have not required counseling. I never did see an Alice Cooper concert, but I am able to handle life’s disappointments and to come up with a way to achieve my goals.
Could I have asked for a better Father? No.
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