Monday, March 25, 2013

They Listen Better . . .

My nephew Jeremy, sister Kat's son, was a handsome boy and is now a handsome man. He was and is very personable, with a great smile.

One Christmas while I was visiting Kat and her family, Jeremy, then perhaps eight or nine years old, sat beside me on a sofa while I looked through the past year's photos. You know the drill.

I came across one with Jeremy and his little sister, and in the picture Jeremy was wearing a smile that would melt the hardest heart. I said, "Boy, look at that smile."

Jeremy: "Yeah. It's fake."

Donnie: "What?"

Jeremy: "It's fake. They told me to smile, so I did."

A few years later Jeremy experienced some problems. He became more rebellious than one might reasonably expect a teenage boy to be. His parents were just unable to find the key to calming him down. Nothing seemed to work.

During our Christmas visit, brother Billy volunteered to take Jeremy back to Maryland to live with him and attend school there. Jeremy was consulted and all agreed that it seemed like a good idea, and when Billy drove back home Jeremy went with him.

On arrival, he got his own bedroom and a set of ground rules. Only several rules, but rules my brother considered important. The *most* important dealt with when Jeremy was expected home. He was told that he was to be home by nine o'clock on school nights, and if for some reason he couldn't make it he was to call Billy and fill him in.

On the very first school night, Jeremy returned home around midnight, having made no telephone call to Billy. Billy told me about it later. Billy, BTW, was perhaps a head taller and a hundred pounds heavier than Jeremy.

"I heard him come in at about midnight, but I just let him go to bed. I wanted to start the new day with the rule fresh in his mind. In the morning I got up early, showered and shaved, and just before leaving for work I went into his bedroom and grabbed him by the throat. I find people listen better when you have them by the throat."

Apparently so, as the rest of the year went much more smoothly, and even today Jeremy is what people once referred to as a straight arrow.

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