Sometimes things happen and you can't even begin to get your head around them. Sunday was one of those days.
Sunday afternoon my wife, daughters and I attended a birthday party of one of my youngest's good friends (the mother was a very good friend of my wife's). While we are sitting around the house waiting for the party to begin, my wife's friend's father-in-law gives me this really nasty look. A few minutes later I took a loaf of bread over to the table where he was sitting so he could make a sandwich.
Then it was Twilight Zone time.
He wanted to go outside and talk. So he, his sons and I went outside and then he launched into a nasty, hate-filled diatribe about why he didn't like my wife or I. It went on forever. He cursed, pointed his finger in my face and called me every name he could think of. It was the most bizarre thing I've ever witnessed.
His son (my wife's friend's husband) told his father to calm down but never told him that his diatribe was inappropriate. It was like he was scared to stop his father from making a fool of himself.
Then what really set him off even more was when I told him in a calm voice that I hadn't raised my voice, I hadn't made any threats and I hadn't cursed at him. The fact that I wouldn't lower myself to his level just ate at him. And then, when I had listened to his vile tantrum he refused to apologize for his behavior and refused to shake my hand.
I was born in Texas and I supposed I will die here as well. I was raised to treat women with respect. I was raised not to insult another man's wife or girlfriend. I was raised to shake another man's hand when it was extended. I was also raised that the ignorant resort to threats of violence because they can't make a logical argument to support their point.
I couldn't believe what I had just been a part of. I was angry. But, as I thought about, I was no longer mad at the man - instead, I pitied him. I felt pity for a man who has allowed hate and bitterness to consume him. I felt pity for a man who embarrassed himself in front of his own son the way that he had just done. I felt pity for a man whose own son was scared to prevent him from making a fool out of himself.
Afterward, my wife's friend apologized to me for what had happened. Interestingly enough, her husband, never said a word. Somehow, it didn't surprise me.
What makes a man allow himself to be consumed by hate and bitterness? I don't know the answer. My view is that life is too damn short to walk around angry. You can choose to be consumed by all of the perceived slights you face day after day -- or you can left them roll off your back like water off a duck. The only lasting image I will have of the incident is his son, a grown man, standing off to the side, too scared to stop his father from humiliating himself. The best he could do was tell his father to calm down -- not to stop, not that his behavior was beyond inappropriate, but to calm down.
And that was the most telling thing of all.