Sunday, January 17, 2010

They Smile Back

We have all seen that movie where the wife sneaks some type of nearly undetectable poison into her husband’s food. They call her the Black Widow because she moves on to another hubby as soon as she gets her insurance check on the dear departed. It is the same old plot, time and time again.

I have not seen the variation where the Black Widow is actually a daughter, but that is what I feel like right now. Over the holidays I dug out the recipe for my mothers Old Timey Sour Dough bread. It is delicious, but it takes a couple of days to make. I took the first loaf to Daddy, and he loved it so much that I got busy and made another batch. There is very little that I can do to brighten Daddy’s day, but this seemed to do the trick. I made myself a little vow to take him bread every week.

Daddy is on a very restrictive diet, and potassium is his worst enemy. He has to watch it very carefully and never eat any of the good foods, like taters and naners, that are full of potassium. We talked about the ingredients before he ate any. I told him there is nothing here but flour and a few spices. A very little bit of sugar. It seemed safe enough to eat . . .

. . . UNTIL Daddy went to the doctor for a routine check-up. Blood tests exposed an extraordinary and dangerous amount of potassium. Thus, my father was prescribed a rather nasty medicine to take. Where could that have come from? He had been so very careful about what he ate.

It was the bread. Even though I am the one who made the starter and the bread, it never occurred to me that the potatoes in the starter contained enough potassium to kill my father. With every slice of bread, I poisoned my father. As soon as he finished one loaf, I was busy making another one. It goes without saying that I never meant to hurt my father. I love him. I adore him. My relationship with him is a close one, and I cannot imagine life without him. Still yet, without even thinking about it, I was hurting him.

Sadly, it is not unusual for us to hurt the people we love without realizing what we are doing. The truth is that we spend a lot more time trying not to hurt, offend, inconvenience Stranger on the Street than we do our own family. We live in this polite society where we plaster a smile on our faces, even when we are doing something unpleasant OR having someone treat us in an unpleasant manner. When we go home to the people we love, all the poisonous hurt and insults that have been suppressed all day comes to the surface and spews out like hot lava. Our loved ones cannot help but contracting some of the poison, and we do not even realize it is there.

The most obvious way that we hurt our loved ones is by mouth. When the counterfeit smile is gone, ugly words and a sharp tongue are unloosed. Nothing poisons our relationships with father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and friend more than the words that slip out of our mouth. They cannot be taken back, and “I’m sorry” is only a Band-aid for a gaping wound.

There are other ways we hurt the ones we love. Time is our most precious relationship
commodity. I regret all the ballgames I missed, so I could work overtime or take a nap before supper. Why did I tell the children to go watch TV when we could have been playing a game, taking a walk, cooking together? But they understood that I was too tired or had work to do. Right? That is what I thought at the time, but the reality is I was hurting them. I did not know it. I did not mean to. Still yet, I was poisoning my relationship with my children just as surely as I was poisoning my father with potassium.

The antidote is love. Devote more time to your loved ones. Say I love you more frequently. Spend Sunday afternoon playing a card game or monopoly or fishing together. If you can suppress those bad feelings and slap on a smile for a disagreeable stranger, you can do it for your family. Indeed, it is even easier because they smile back!


  1. What a great post! I'm just glad they figured out the bread was not good for your father now. It's ok though b/c you honestly didn't know. Maybe there is something else you can make him? :)

  2. Oh sure! I can fix some Rubens. I use my cousin's recipe and cook the barvarian kraut down in a bottle of dark beer. Pretty tasty!


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