I often worry that insider stories I write about Mike will denigrate his memory or legacy. However, we all have our flaws that make us unique. For Mike, one of those flaws was his stubborn streak. I can talk about this flaw easily because it’s one of the prevailing traits of all of the men in my family. Over time, I have learned to suppress or overcome mine, but my elders haven’t. My dad, grandfather and uncle are the most stubborn people I know.
dogged determination not to change one’s attitude or position on something.
In some ways, it is a good thing to be stubborn and/or unwaivering–especially when your beliefs are questioned. Unfortunately stubbornness often causes undue conflict and friction between us. I think of this as the “My way or the highway” scenario. It doesn’t matter if your suggestion gets us to the same place as mine, my way is always the “right” way to do it. This attitude is what leads a 60 year old man to stand in front of a church for 6 weeks in the middle of winter in orange coveralls picketing for his money back. It’s what leads a 50 year old man to live in his mustang in winter for 3 months instead of finding a home. (Unfortunately, I have seen both of these last scenarios play out in my own family.)
Like I said though, it’s not always a bad thing. It only becomes bad when it is taken too far. Standing your ground on important issues such as your faith is a good thing. Digging in when your friends pressure to do something you know is wrong is also good.
…and then there’s Mike
This is where I think of Mike. He never backed down from the important things such as his faith, peer pressure, etc. We never got to see how his stubbornness would manifest in his life, but I imagine he’d be a lot like my brother-in-law Dan. Dan draws “lines in the sand” so to speak when it comes to the first mow of the season. When to put in and turn on the air conditioner. When to turn on the furnace for the winter and so on.
I don’t remember Mike being that specific, but when he decided a course of action, it was nearly impossible to alter his course. One of my most vivid memories of Mike’s stubborn streak involved food. I think we were 6 or 7 and mom had fixed something that he was determined NOT to eat that nigh–I think it was green beans. The funniest thing to me is that the food he refused to eat was something he really liked. He had just decided that he wasn’t going to eat it this time. I never understood it because if there was a plate in front of me, I was going to clear it! So this one particular night he decided that he was going to get his way and eat the food he wanted. We always sat down to eat around 5pm and I remember the meal vividly. We all sat down and ate, talked, etc. Mike, though, refused to touch ANYTHING on his plate. As long as those green beans were on the plate, he wasn’t touching it.
He did want dessert though, but mom told him that he had to eat what was on his plate or he wasn’t getting dessert. He also wasn’t going to be getting up until the plate was cleared. (I know some of you are thinking, how could she? Forcing a kid to eat? Mike was always much too thin, so he couldn’t skip too many meals and stay healthy) Unwavering, Mike sat there. And sat there. And sat. He sat there until almost 9pm that night I think–long after the table had been cleared and we moved to other activities. Mom wasn’t about to let him sit there all night, so she wrapped his plate and put him to bed. The next morning, he did finally eat that dinner for breakfast. It was a lesson he had to learn and did–he never refused to eat again!
Looking back, I think many of the things that our parents and all parents did, would be considered child abused today. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t, but there’s no changing it now. To go back and change it would change who we are today. Would a parent today be able to do what mom did with Mike that evening? Probably not. If a kid said they didn’t want it, the pressure to give the kid what they did want would be immense. Mike’s lesson that night wasn’t meant to break his spirit or harm him. The lesson was that this is our meal, and you’ll eat it or go hungry. There won’t be a separate meal for each of us. It was also a lesson in obedience. He didn’t refuse the meal because he was allergic or because the food was inedible–he refused it for the shear act of rebelling.
I also learned a lesson that night–watch out when Mike digs in his heals! He would compromise–on some things. On others, you had to watch out. It might seem small to us, but to Mike, if he was determined it was the most important thing in the world to him at that moment.