“Sorry Doesn’t Mean A Damn Thing! Not If The Behavior Doesn’t Change-Max Wayne Madden(Shumate) #dadlife

My dad hated the word sorry. I remember that very clearly. he made it abundantly clear one day, well pretty clear most days, but abundantly clear, on one particular day.

My mom and I had had ourselves one of those epic fights, arguments, you know, 16 year old kid arguing with his over protective, religious mother kind of broohaha.

I howled, “Fuck you!” And double-birded the widow

I stormed out of the house, and since I was grounded, and couldn’t leave the house in my huff, I had gone out into the back yard, to the wood stack. That was kind of where I vented anger at about this time, chopping wood. Yeah, we had a wood stove, and ir was my job to keep the wood pile amply supplied. As a 15 year old , misunderstood by his parents, with alot of anger, chopping wood just kind of worked out for me.

Well, the wood pile was across our back deck, on the back corner of the lot. To get there, I walked in front of a big picture window that looked out over the back yard. I was still pissed off, and, as I passed the window, which was curtained, I howled, “Fuck you!” And double-birded the widow, hands straight up in the air, defiantly. I then headed the rest of the way to the wood pile, to blow off the rest of the steam.

Unfortunately, the big picture window wasn’t quite as curtained as i thought. Turns out, a gap at the edge of the window, right next to my Dad’s reading chair, gave my dad a cinematographers view of my defiant gesture, with just a slight turn of his head away from his book. My howling fuck you, gave him reason to do that slight turn, and boom! Dad just watched me cuss and flip off my mom…

Though I was blissfully unaware that my dad had seen me, those of you that knew him, or knew a dad like him, know what was coming.

I was just about to start curtting wood, when I heard the bellow, “BOY!, get over here!”, from my dad standing on the deck.. I was still clueless that he had seen me, so i approached with a surly teenage,

“What!?” as I approached… I was cutting wood for christ sake, what could I be doing wrong now?, I was thinking. Wasn’t thinking that for long, as a lightning quick pimp slap from dad, got my attention, as it damn near knocked me down.

BAMM! Pimp slap number two, this time right on the ear.

he started pushing me back to the relative visual cover of the wood storage area and, when i started to apologize, BAMM! Pimp slap number 2, this time right on the ear… add some slippery footing, and I was down, and scrambling to regain my balance and my composure

dad said, through gritted teeth in a primal growl…”Quit using that word!”

Now me, thinking he meant the ‘F’ word, ‘fuck’, got up brushed myself off and, turning to face him, sullenly said “sorry dad”, only to have my eyes crossed and stars put into my periphery vision by yet another open hand slap..

“Quit saying yer sorry, you don’t mean it! Quit using that word, it means nothing coming out of your lips. It is a fucking lie! I swear to god, you say sorry one more time i will knock you the fuck out boy, swear to god!”

I am sure I started to mumble something stupid and unintelligible, but he continued.

“Sorry doesn’t mean a damn thing unless the behavior changes. without changing the behavior, it’s just lies, lies to get you off the hook, to get you out of trouble.”

“Sorry doesn’t mean a damn thing unless the behavior changes.

he rolled on, “No more! I don’t want to hear sorry come out of your damn mouth ever again, I want to see the behavior change, I want to see remorse, not “sorry’, ya get it?”Huh? Ya get it? time for you to grow up boy, yer a man now, this is the way it’s gonna go from now on….”

As a parting note, almost over his shoulder, and in a lower voice, he muttered almost,”Wanta make ‘I’m a man decisions’? Then I am gonna punish you like a man, man to man…”

He left me out there , stalking back into the house, I presume to tell Mom what had went down. I stayed out there for a couple hours, chopping wood and fuming.

You can be sure, from that date forward, dad never heard sorry from me again. Maybe an I apologize, here or there, but never again, did I say sorry… at least to him.

Now, let’s fast forward a bit, not quite 20 years. Dad had called me up, to ask me to talk to my little brother about his plans to join the military. I scoffed at the idea, telling him, “dad, you don’t want me talking to him, I’ll talk him out of it.”

I may not ever appreciate the pimp slaps…

Y A little back ground here. See, dad had pretty much forced me to go into the Army, straight out of high school. And, to be truthful, I may still have been a little pissed at him about it. Army didn’t go well for me, at least right there at the end. I got an honorable discharge, but you might call me a disgruntled vet, to say the least. I wasn’t gonna paint a rosy picture that a recruiter would enjoy.

That’s when he said it. “I Want you to talk him out of it.”

I said, “What? You want what?”

“I want you to talk him out of it”, he reiterated.

“Wait wait, why…, why?”I sputtered, “How did this even come up?”

“He is talking about joining up. I can’t talk him into the Coast Guard, ya gotta talk to him, go to the recruiter with him, maybe.”Dad pleaded.

“But you made me go in, write ya out of the will’, all of that shit?” I said, ” What about all that?”

“Yeah, well, I was wrong, they fucked you over. They fucked me over when I was in. Don’t let them fuck Benny over too. we have paid enough, they don’t get to fuck another one of us over…, talk him out of it… please.”

I was stunned, really. I told dad that I would talk to him, that if Ben wanted me to, I would go down to the recruiters office with him, make sure if he did go in anyway, at least it wouldn’t be the recruiter that screwed him.

But I was dumbfounded. Not sure if I should laugh or be angry. I mean he made me go in the military! I hadn’t wanted to go, but he made me. Told me I would get nothing from him in the will if I didn’t go serve, go ‘pay the rent’, for the right to be in this country.

But it dawned on me, not suddenly, more like a warm glow in the mind, washing over me.

He was no longer insistent his boys go in the military. He was now adamant that they not go!

He was walking the walk. Though I knew before that he regretted making me go in the military, he had never said it before, not before just now. He had stated he had been wrong. He admitted that he was wrong. He hadn’t apologized, of course, he wouldn’t. He was living, what he had literally beat into me.

He was showing me the change in philosophy. He wasn’t apologizing, he was showing me that the behavior had changed. He was no longer insistent his boys go in the military. He was now adamant that they not go!

This was him showing me, in real time, the change in behavior. Showing me, that he regretted the decision. That he needed my help, to go in a very different direction.

he showed his remorse through actions, not words.

It dawned on me, after this day, that dad really did operate this way. I could see now, in past events, how he had done much the same. He wasn’t an apologizer. he showed his remorse through actions, not words.

I may not ever appreciate the pimp slaps…but I do treasure the point, recognize it for the valuable lesson it was. A good barometer on which to judge the character of those you interact with.


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