Sunday, October 31, 2010

Get off of my lawn

Walt Kowalski gave new power to a command as old as suburbia. Sure, he punctuated his directive with what General Patton called “the greatest single battle implement ever devised by man.” But it was the gravel in his voice and the feral gleam in his eye that left no doubt.

My Dad looked a lot like Walt Kowalski. He was a few years older – Walt’s war was Korea; Dad was in the big show. Like Walt, Dad favored a push reel lawnmower. Like Walt, Dad loved his lawn.

But Dad was not a “get off of my lawn” kind of guy. The only guns in the house were an antique revolver in .22 short that I wasn’t supposed to know about, packed away in a shoe box in the attic, and a Damascus steel, double-barrel, open hammer shotgun that my grandfather had used to pot rabbits. The only time I ever saw that shotgun – or any other weapon – in Dad’s hands was the day he gave it to me, broken down and wrapped in a towel.

Dad’s entire notion of home defense played out in his nightly rounds to check all the doors on his way to bed. I suppose you cannot argue with his approach from an empirical standpoint. No home invasions at 3916 Fenley Road. No assaults in the driveway. The Chevy Biscayne was never carjacked, nor the Malibu after that. You’ll be tempted to say that his bridge stood up, so he built it right.

You would be wrong to chalk his choices up to the time and the place (although certainly that could account for the results). What it really came down to was temperament and worldview. It simply wasn’t in Dad to think that anyone in the world would want to do him ill, when he wished ill to no man. Even World War Two couldn’t change that.  Added to that was mid-century variety of undiluted faith in the state, a nearly talismanic belief in the power of the police department number on the pad next to the phone in the kitchen. Blessedly, he passed away never having cause to doubt that faith. 

But as for me, as for now, as for here – with all the love and respect any man can possibly have for his father – I simply know better.