Know Thyself

My son bellows, “Go to your room.”

The brown mop of hair that is my grandson, mumbles incomprehensibly as he slumps away, stumbling on his laces, that are flopping around his shoes like sedated snakes.

My son glimpses the smirk pinching my cheeks.

“You’re going to tell me I was as troublesome.” His words are punctuated by a slamming door in the distance.

“You were,” I say. “But better behaved than me.”

I tap my fingers on the lacquered mahogany table I’m seated at, once with a perfect polish, reflecting it surrounds, now laid waste by the dings and scrapes which speak of tales from the massacres of tiny armies to the pruning of paper men.

My eyes trail down the hall to where my grandson disappeared. “When I was his age, my parents owned a corner store. They were always working, always weary.”

“An old story, Dad.” My son sighs. “Told a hundred times.”

“But have I told you of the punishment they dished out for naughty children?”

“The wooden spoon?” he speculates.

“Sometimes—more often then I care to admit. But the days when I truly provoked your grandmother’s fury, God help me, she would lock me in the can cupboard. The dark is dismal and dreary for a young boy—not like your son’s toy-loaded cacophony of a bedroom.”

My son concedes with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Once, your Grandmother forgot I was shut in the cupboard. Too busy or too tired,” I say without judgment. “Alone for hours, I sat in that shoebox, my stomach hollow and scowling as I considered my behaviour. I learnt a lot of myself that day. When she finally opened the door, guilt pooled in her eyes. But I was the one who apologised, over and over, until her guilt faded.”

“Did you promise not to do it again?” my son asks, hopeful.

I roar with laughter. “The next day I concealed a can opener in the cupboard, right at the back, where it wouldn’t be seen.”

My son looks aghast.

“Know your own nature, son.”