Even superheroes need someone to wake them up and remind them to take a moment to look around and take an account of the situation and circumstances.
That is not an exact account of a conversation with my father, but it is pretty darn close to one we had after having seen The Dark Knight.
I looked at dad and said, “Even Bruce Wayne needs to remember you can’t screw an old head on young shoulders.”
Dad smiled and I told him about the time his father told me not to let my Wilner temper get me in trouble.
“You know I had no bigger cheerleader than your father and the fact that he yelled at me says everything you need to know. It was after your heart attack. You were in New Jersey and he told me he was going to catch a flight and bring you home.
I said no and told him it wasn’t going to happen. It was painful but we worked through it. He was 90, mind was sharp but his body wasn’t up to the cross country trip.”
Dad smiled, said he missed his father and I said ‘me too.’
Bruce Wayne: [while in the underground bat cave] Targeting me won’t get their money back. I knew the mob wouldn’t go down without a fight, but this is different. They crossed the line.
Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them, you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.
Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.
Alfred Pennyworth: With respect Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that *you* don’t fully understand, either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So, we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anybody who traded with him. One day, I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?
Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Grandpa Wilner would have liked The Dark Knight, that exchange between Bruce and Alfred would have resonated with him the same way it did with dad and I.
We were tight and so it is strange to think about Fathers Day without them. Strange to picture it without my maternal grandfather, the inimitable Mr. Silver.
I remember sitting with the four of us while we watched my son and nephew play in the backyard of my old house.
Remember them all asking about the job and offering advice on a couple of situations.
“You always want to measure twice and cut once. Better to do it right the first time. If you get involved in a disagreement make you have documented it and you make your move when you are ready, not on their terms.
But if you have to move first make sure you’re holding a roll of quarters in your fist.”
That last part wasn’t meant to be taken literally, though there had been a time when it was offered. It was more of a metaphor.
It was a reminder to avoid unnecessary conflict but if you had to mix it up you go in hard and make it clear that it was a mistake for the other party to engage with you.
That was good advice and I have tried to live by it. I see much that happens around me and ignore as much as I can.
But if someone forces the issue and inserts themselves in my business or tries to drag me into theirs I will express my appreciation on my terms. It is not based upon anger, it is based upon thoughtful action and logical consequences.
Saved me a ton of unnecessary grief, better to be like Ferdinand the bull. Most of the narishkeit in life doesn’t require a response.
That’s a lesson I have worked hard to teach to my children.
Some people are nice and some are jerks. Sometimes the jerks are so unhappy they are determined to try and drag us into their misery.
We don’t have to accept their invitations nor engage. If they want to play victim and hold pity parties that is their problem not ours.
If we own our words and actions things work out, maybe not as nicely as we would like but at least we go to sleep feeling as good as possible in the situation.
That is worth something. Besides almost nothing lasts forever though it may feel otherwise.
I know that from experience as well as from the men who helped make me into who I am today.