“Boy, you better quit horsing around before I get out of this…..
The table tray in which the ashtray, Pall Mall cigarettes, lighter, and a half glass of water on it went flying all over dad. With water dripping down his face, ashes dusting him and his clothes, dad sat there stunned. In his moment of shock, I took advantage of the situation and ran with all haste out the back door. I thought for sure he was going to kill me.
Uh oh, my well-executed roundhouse kick had landed lower than planned and caught the tray.
For the record, I had no intention of kicking my father. I was demonstrating my skill. Fate was not on my side that day, despite the training and the paraphernalia to go with it.
During high school for a couple of years, I studied Kung Fu at the John Collins Park Teen Center then followed on with private lessons. Never the master always the student, right?
Initially, the conventional wisdom was that by introducing Martial Arts to the teens, it would give them discipline and help them channel their energy. The problem is the director underestimated the exuberance of the teens. The teens practiced during classes; they practiced during off nights; they practiced inside and outside the teen center. You get the picture.
With the threat of someone getting hurt, the director halted all martial arts at the teen center.
The instructor was a colorful individual named Steve. A Vietnam Veteran and a US Marine, he was shot while on patrol in country. The injury left him disabled.
Despite our age difference, Steve and I developed a friendship. Even after the classes ended at the teen center, he continued giving me and another guy lessons
Let’s say at seventeen; I became obsessed with Bruce Lee. It had been several years since he had passed away. That only added to the mystique.
I Bruce’s ordered his books, read on his philosophy and training. the black uniform bottoms and the black slippers that I ordered would only enhance my skill.
I had seen Bruce, and the other Martial Arts masters wear the black pants and shoes in the movies. I assumed they only add to your skill. The slippers were slippery. On the wrong surface, a high kick would land you on your backside. During practice, I found that out while looking up from my bedroom floor.
A hillbilly from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, Dad, was one of these guys who never followed the rules. He fought dirty. A skeptic about my martial arts training, Dad would catch me off guard. He would fake a punch or fake a kick to the groin when I wasn’t ready. Then make some snarky remark.
The day of reckoning came. I had been practicing in my brand new black martial arts trousers and my new Kung Fu slippers. I was going to demonstrate my skill.
He was sitting in HIS recliner, the throne, his TV tray to the left. Egging him on to get up out of his chair. I was throwing some punches in his direction. Then I threw that masterfully placed kick.
As I walked down the sidewalk behind our apartment complex, “I will let him cool off. Maybe, he won’t ground me for too long. I will go and tell him how sorry I am and perhaps he will forgive me.”
Ten minutes later I entered the house to await my fate. Dad was eerily calm even smiling. He told me that after the initial shock and anger, he saw the humor and started laughing. I still had to clean up the mess.
That was one lesson in fatherly grace.