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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Not So Perfect

I spoke to a woman friend of mine today.  She told me her sister was getting divorced after 16 years of marriage.  It seems the husband is an alcoholic.  I asked if he beat her or was violent.  (Something even I won't tolerate, with my John Wayne code of ethics.  (John never struck a woman, no matter the cause.)  She said no.  In fact, she portrayed him as a "highly functional alcoholic". (Senior executive at a major corporation with an income over 3 digits) and loving and attentive to their three children.   But, after years of trying, her sister has given up on his evenings of drinking himself, I imagine, to sleep. 

I expressed the usual empathy and condolences on the human condition.  However, I thought, to myself, "And another marriage, another relationship, bites the dust."  

For some odd reason this little vignette of life... this "sound bite" told by an acquaintance stuck with me all day.   I wondered. "What had tipped the scales?"  What had caused her to "give it up" after sixteen years?  In fact, in retrospect, I think I asked her that question and as I remember, there was nothing!   He just wore her down.  Or, maybe she wore him down...I doesn't really matter.

This event brought to mind a story my stepfather told me once about an employee he discovered who was stealing from him.  My father was in the plating business.  Automotive chrome, nickel plating.  The employee was stealing a 100lb canister of pure nickel ingots once a month.


In the evening around the dinner table my father explained to us what he had discovered and told us how disappointed he was in this man whom he had known for a long time.  He trusted him and considered him a friend.  He had been to our house on weekends and holidays.

We all assumed my father was going to fire the employee but after some thought he decided to keep him and ignore the theft.  He gave us the following explanation: Ed had been with the company for over 12 years.  He was a hard worker.  He showed up for work every day. He knew the business, inside and out.  In short, he could be depended on.   He made money for the company.  Yes, he was a thief.  But, what would it cost my father to replace him and more importantly, what kind of new employee would he get?  One that didn't show up for work.  One that drank on the job.  One that didn't know how to lead and motivate the other workers.   Also, if he confronted him my father new he risked Ed leaving out of shame.  On the other hand he was a thief.  What to do?????
As I said before, all things considered, my father decided to keep Ed.  He dealt with the stealing by keeping track of what Ed stole and calculated the loss into Ed's earnings, rather than giving him a raise.

I reflected on this in the context oh how we decide to give up on relationships.  Obviously, this isn't the thought process Dr. Laura would go through.  But when we give up a relationship of 10, 15, 20 or 25 years because of a defect in that relationship, what do we trade it for?  I think we all might do well to consider that question before we draw a line in the sand...

It seems we're all searching for this nirvana.  This idyllic, romantic notion of relationship borne of a concept we read in books, or were taught in church or  from the cinema or television.  Or maybe, as in my case, it was that little voice inside me that said I could do better.  And maybe that little voice is fueled by all of the sources above.  And maybe, just maybe some of it is crap.    But convinced of that greener grass we move on to achieve something better, finer, truer.   But did I achieve it?  Will I?  I hope so.

Bottom line, maybe... just maybe we (myself included) need to be a little more tolerant, a little more willing to accept a few defects.  Or as Tom Waits once said, "Dreams aren't broken here; they walk around with a limp."  And, hey?  Is that so bad?

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