Things were going so well for my dad. His first child was a sweet, intelligent, thoughtful girl, someone he could reason with, who responded to logic and knew how to evaluate risk and reward. Just what you'd want in offspring.
And then he decided to push his luck and had boys.
My brother and me, specifically and in that order, separated by enough time that the madness went on for years. Which meant my dad got to spend a lot of his life squinting at the sky over the shoulder of one of his sons while he tried to explain, through clinched teeth, why whatever it is was we were doing probably wasn't the best idea.
And after he had exhausted all rational discussion and determined that the only ones potentially being hurt were ourselves and that the bones or scars would heal, he'd fall back on a phrase that resonates with me during these challenging times.
"Well," he would say, "I'm going to stand back and watch, since it looks like you've decided to keep hitting yourself in the head with a hammer just to see how good it feels when you quit."
For those of you not fluent in Southwest Oklahoma, that means, basically, "Whatever you're doing is stupid. You know it's stupid, I know it's stupid and you know I know it's stupid. But I'm going to let you do it, confident that the only satisfaction you're going to get out of it is the knowledge that you stubbornly did something when it was obviously a bad and potentially painful idea, and through little fault of your own, you survived."
I used to find this phrase annoying, communicating as it did the often obvious fact I was about to embark on a course of action that even our stupid dog knew was stupid. But over the years, many of them involving interactions with my own children, I've come to realize it contained both a confirmation of the wisdom granted by experience and a hint of ... grace.
Grace in that my father understood that, for no other reasons than puberty and testosterone, his sons were drawn to do dumb things and they needed to do them, with only a hint of judgment and the understanding that sometimes people need to come to the obvious conclusion via a route of their own choosing.
The sort of grace that, during these times, we may need to bestow a little more of, rather than simply presuming to understand and devalue the challenges other people face. For good or bad, experience is often the best teacher and sometimes, once experience has taught its lessons, you have to allow people an off-ramp from their personal highway to Stupidville.
We are in one of the least-vaccinated states in our fair Union, and it's safe to say it's not because we couldn't be better. Shots are practically being handed out like Girl Scout Cookies, except that unlike the cookies, the shots are free.
And whether we like it or not, it's painfully obvious that no amount of hectoring is going to get people who haven't had the vaccine to do so until they are good and ready. Though our governor certainly appears to know his audience when, instead of college scholarships, he offered up lottery tickets and fishing licenses as inducements to get the shots.
Some people, it seems are bound and determined to continue hitting themselves in the head with hammers. Unfortunately, with covid and the Delta variant, it appears they're likely hitting others as well.
Now I like to think – though I could be wrong – readers of newspapers in general and this column in particular are among the group that doesn't need to take a ball peen upside the skull to see the wisdom of things like vaccines. Again, I could be misguided, but hope springs eternal. Let's assume I'm right.
So, all I can ask of you at this point is a little grace. Let's at least hope people will come to the correct conclusion on their own, when they're good and ready and have figured out a way to make it look like it was their idea all along. Food and Drug Administration approval of the vaccine might help, but there are likely folks who will promptly find another excuse, so let's not assume that's a silver inoculation.
While efforts at education, information and, as the dreaded last resort, legislation may be required, grace will also be required as well. And it's likely we'll all feel better when some folks put down those hammers.