My father exemplifies the adjective "formidable." My brother, familiar with our father's place of employment, reported that he is "respected and feared" there. In one of our few moments of mutual harmony and agreement, my brother and I both asserted that if we were ever unfortunate enough to be caught by the police and forced to either spend a night in jail or call our father to bail us out, we would enthusiastically choose the former option.
Of course, this isn't a complete picture of him by any stretch of the imagination. He is also incredibly generous, sensitive, and comical. What I didn't know about him until recently is that he is completely unintimidated by, and even able to relate to, teenagers.
Last weekend, my mother was involved in an event in our hometown, working for a nonprofit organization that needed to raise money for its activities. I agreed to spend some of the weekend at home to help out, and later in the afternoon, my father appeared at the festivities. My mother was in a state of exasperation--there was a competition due to commence at 5:30 pm, and the implements for the race had not been assembled. My father agreed to stay around and find a solution to this problem. A table was set up, and at first, a group of adults, my father and I included, attempted to rectify the situation. Then, a group of middle school students came by to help.
Most teachers will agree that middle school is the most difficult age to teach in class. The sight of a pack of preteens brought about the retreat of some of the adults, whether moving off to some other activity or engaging in conversation with each other. To my great surprise, my father arranged the students in two lines and showed them how to quickly get the work done, instructing and encouraging them along the way. He was familiar; he was unintimidated. He was the one of the only adults among at least half a dozen that engaged these kids and stuck with the project, only a few others excepted.
Who would have thought?