Patience Before Passion another story from writer Neta Shlain who wrote My Father and I. This story is how her stepdad Sam taught her a valuable lesson about patience.
When I think about my stepfather, one story in particular springs to mind. It was early summer of 1992, and I was experiencing an enormous crush over a boy at school.
At fourteen, a girl, who had never had a boyfriend before, is bound to think this boy is her prince she was destined to meet, horse or no horse.
I dreamt about him day and night, missing what the teachers were trying to convey to my melted brain, weakened by the warming sun and my newly found love.
Sam, my stepdad, was first to notice something strange was happening to me. At dinner he asked me in his usual directness if I was in love.
From just glancing at him, I could see he knew he was right. I guessed he hid his smile. He’s good like that, knowing what I’m going through. Sometimes he reads me better than my mom.
So I confessed it all to him. He said nothing at first, following his most noticeable trait of moving slowly, which made him never rush into anything.
A true engineer, he would always first identify the problem, ponder on it, come up with a solution, devise a plan of execution and only then act upon it. It’s true now as it was then.
That was his way of approaching picnics, weekends, holidays and relationships. That’s probably another reason why it didn’t work out between him and mom.
She wasn’t acting according to his well-thought-of plans and he wasn’t spontaneous enough for her. But then, who knows…? Go figure – relationships.
The next day he called me into their bedroom for a chat, “Look, I’ve been thinking about your problem…”. I waited impatiently – he was taking his time.
“You really like this boy… Don’t you?” I lowered myself into a chair “I do, he’s really… I think I’m… Well yeah.. I like him,” I was blushing intensely; we didn’t have many of those intimate conversations and now I was extremely aware of it.
But I was also glad we were having one now, so I continued, “What do you think I should do? Should I tell him? Or..! I thought that I could ask a friend-” “Wait,” He stopped me.
He approached the computer, bent down, pressed the “on” button; I figured he’s going to need the chair I was sitting on, so I moved onto the bed as he took my place on the chair.
Everything was happening in silence, his last word was still hanging in the air. These silent moments were strange and awkward for me to get used to at first, when I was just getting to know him; but now I knew this is how he rolls, so I played his game.
Funny enough, even now, over twenty years after, that’s how we connect the strongest – through silence.
The computer was on, Sam pulled out on the screen a spread of Solitaire and started clicking the mouse. I thought he had forgotten we were in the middle of a conversation.
“Sam? What were you going to say?” He half smiled and barely moved his heavy body, just enough to let me know he’s still with me.
I got up and started pacing the space between big double bed and the wall, checking him in the wardrobe mirror every time I passed the bed’s corner.
I started to suspect he’s going to tell me off and let me know he talked to my mom about it and both of them decided it was too soon for me, or irresponsible, or will distract me or something else of that sort.
Eventually, he spoke.
Apparently, that’s what he was telling me. I didn’t like it at all, so I erupted, “But why to wait? I’ve waited already for like a month! And anyway, what should I wait for? You know what, Sam, I’m sorry, but I waited now for like an hour for you to say something and all you can say is again ‘Wait!’
I’m off. I don’t have all day.” And I stormed out of the room.
I was upset and didn’t want to talk about it in the evening. He felt my mood and didn’t say anything.
The next day, before I left for school, he said to me, “Don’t be angry with me, I just want you to understand that patience is more important than passion. You don’t have to agree with me, just think about it, ok?”
I scratched my neck and nodded reluctantly. All I was thinking at the time is that I should’ve talked to my mom about this crush and not to him; I knew for a fact I wouldn’t get the same advice from her.
Now, that I’m in my late thirties, separated and with two kids, I understand exactly what he meant then. I didn’t agree with him at the time and didn’t follow his advice either.
Maybe if he would’ve explained more, I would react differently, but that’s how he is: laconic and economical with words, perhaps too aware of their power.
Now I think this is true – passion is wonderful, but it doesn’t get you places without patience. And it’s especially true when talking about relationships.
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