A picture paints a thousand words, but it often leaves a few out, too. There are obvious words in this photo. For instance, dad and son go fishing. Not so obvious though, this is their first time. Also obvious is Elliott looks a bit confused. Not so obvious, he's wondering if the little guy always gets stuck toting the worms.
For me, the picture was timely to look at. Just the night before, we were all in the car driving to Cici's Pizza (a trip that I am pleased to say has become a Friday night fixture in our lives). Elliott began barking out a sharp string of words in the back seat: "No, I said don't do that," we heard repeatedly.
Katie became curious as to where this was coming from. "Did you hear that at school today?" she asked, foolishly thinking our boy might have behaved in a manner that warranted correction.
"No," he answered.
"Then where did you hear that?"
"From daddy," he said.
She looked at me to make certain that I was aware we had a parrot in the backseat. I hadn't acknowledged this yet when the parrot spoke up again.
"Mama, you're a knucklehead", the bird said.
"Elliott, where did you hear that?" she asked. My heart rate accelerated and threatened to arrive at Cici's before we did.
"From daddy," he answered. For such a small boy, he had no trouble hoisting his dad and tossing him under a slow moving bus.
At this point, I suggested it was in everyone's best interest to ignore Elliott's line of conversation and allow it the opportunity to die a rather unceremonious death, much like the one I would experience were the conversation to continue.
Ignoring the conversation coming from Elliott's mouth proved easier than ignoring the one he had left recorded in my memory. It wasn't the fact that Elliott repeated my exact words as accurately as our president recites the words on his teleprompter, but it was the way he repeated them. Like an answering maching captures the spirit of the sender, Elliott played back my attitude, my temperament. Oh, the wisdom of a mirror.
Being a father is a challenge. I'm fortunate to have the lessons of a good father and grandfathers before me to follow. King Solomon once said: Listen to counsel and receive instruction that you may be wise in your latter days (Proverbs 19:20). I have definitely received my fair share of good counsel. But it also appears that my latter days are yet to come, because a parrot in the backseat seems committed to providing further instruction.