My dad never handled injuries or illnesses well: a child’s upset stomach would cause him to flee the house, while a complaint about an injury was greeted with a stern, “Be a man about it.” Although it was against his nature, my father stood tall when it came to my illnesses and injuries.
In the seventh grade, after having words with a classmate, he pushed me and I hit him on the side of his head. It was at that moment—as I realized that he wasn’t even stunned and my hand hurt so bad I could hardly contain the tears—I learned that I was destined to be a talker and not a fighter. Later, after school, when I called my father and told him that I had hurt my hand, he instructed me to not be a sissy and walk to Dr. Davis’s, our family physician, office and have it checked.
The x-ray showed the hand to be broken and after a cast had been applied, the nurse called my dad to come pick me up. I could hear both parts of the conversation: “Mr. Tucker, we have finished with Bill. You need to come pick him up.’ ‘Pick him up? He hurt his hand not his legs—he can walk.’ ‘We don’t want him to be outside until we are sure the plaster in the cast has set.’ ‘What in the horrible h-e-l-l are you talking about? Plaster? Cast? What am I going to tell his mother?” That evening he treated me to my favorite dinner, a steak sandwich, French fries and a cherry coke at a local drive-in restaurant, and made me promise I wouldn’t tell my mother how I hurt my hand.
My junior year of high school, since I was continuously tired and running a fever, my mother took me to the doctor. When the doctor called to report the results of my blood tests, my mother was not at home and dad took the call. I watched as the color drained from his face, and saw tears in his eyes when he hung up the phone. As he left to return to work, he asked me to have my mother call him.
He learned I had Mononucleosis and having no idea what it was, but knowing it sounded serious, my father decided I was not long for this earth, and that was bad news for him and an unsuspecting salesman.
That same day, an insurance salesman had an appointment with my father to try and sell a life insurance coverage on me. During his pitch to my father he said, “If Bill should pass away, this policy will underwrite the cost of having him buried.” Talk about striking a nerve! Distraught over the thought of his young son dying , my dad grabbed the salesman by the backs of his collar and pants, ran him through the office, threw him out the front door and told him if he ever came back he would shoot him.
After this incident, my mother instructed doctors not to talk to my father.
I thought about my father when we were keeping our two grandsons for a couple of days while their parents took a much-needed small vacation. The first night everything went well, the two little guys were fun and went to bed with no fuss at all. The following morning I was sound asleep when my wife woke me by saying, “I’m sick, you’ve got to take care of William.” Well, William, our youngest and his older brother Alex—as was their grandmother, Terri—were afflicted with the stomach flu. It was a long day, the boys were troopers, Terri slept all day and after 30 years, I again became proficient at changing diapers. Although I’m not certain what my father would have done under the same circumstances, I have no doubt he would have dealt with it.
Over time, I have learned that challenges not of my making will occur and when they do, I have to face them head on. Whether a parent, boss or army general, when it comes to leadership, dealing with problems is part of the job description. Although tempting, running away is not an option; difficulties only get worse if ignored and passing troubles off to others will undermine your authority. Leaders take, demonstrate and teach responsibility.
“A real leader faces the music, even when he doesn’t like the tune.” – Anon.