“Ed, why’d you chop the head off that rooster?”
It wasn’t a question. It was an accusation. I was standing before the high court of the household and had not even been asked to enter a plea. That might have been somewhat moot, since I was standing there with the dripping evidence in my hand.
I knew this was a serious situation because my mother called me “Ed.” If there had been any mercy in her heart at all toward the eight-year-old executioner, it would have been “Eddie,” said in the same tone Moses used to deliver the laws of Leviticus to the Israelites.
I learned that lesson early from my father. If he was feeling well-disposed toward the world in general, and my mother in particular, he called her “Maisie.” If the world in general, and my mother in particular, was getting on his “angore,” he called her “Maise.”
I never did, and to my knowledge no one in the rest of the family did either, exactly discover what an “angore” was or if they still exist. We knew that it generally introduced a negative change in attitude toward the person or persons who were now resting on father’s “angore.”
God help the drunks who came into a church soup supper intent on causing trouble. The invoking of the angore was a sign they should depart the premises in a hurry. If they failed to recognize the hoisting of father’s battle colours, they never made that mistake again.
Truth is, I wasn’t feeling the least bit guilty, even with the beheaded party in my hand and still only halfway on the flight between here and poultry heaven.
I was never really a carrier for that most insidious of all the soul-destroying agents foisted upon us by a zealous clergy — guilt. That still applies.
It could be said, I suppose, that I’ve never done anything to feel guilty about, but you don’t believe that any more than I do. I feel regret over things I’ve done which unintentionally hurt people, but that’s not the same thing. If you’re in the market for this kind of advice you should listen up. I’m just great at giving advice on other people’s problems.
Regret is when you look back over your life and say to yourself, “I wish I hadn’t done that,” or, “I wish I had done that differently.” If you could, you might even want to apologize to the injured parties, but chances are, for one reason or another, that time has passed. If it does not go away and it’s eating you alive and causing the kind of stress that takes joy out of your life, chances are it makes you a pain in the arse to those around you. So what do you do? You forgive yourself and move on.
Guilt is a slow-acting poison that permeates every organ and cell in your body until you lose the ability to sleep well at night and focus during the day.
The cure for guilt? It’s the same as for regret, interestingly enough. It’s a matter of forgiving yourself for what you’ve done or think you’ve done. Chances are, you’ve forgiven someone else for wrong that was done to you. Do that for yourself. If you believe in a Deity or Supreme Being of some kind, you probably believe He or She loves you and forgives you. Extrapolate it all for yourself. You deserve to be forgiven.
If there’s something you have to do to make that happen, and it’s practical, do it and then believe it. Of course it can be done. That’s how many of us survive. Consider Stephen Harper.
That’s rather heavy stuff. I throw it in there just to lighten the mood. Also, this will be good publicity for my upcoming book “A Life Without Guilt for Dummies.”
Back to the future. That particular summer my father was in Toronto learning about God in a theological college. For the first time, his family was left alone. A couple of weeks after his departure, my mother invited a couple of our friends to dinner after church in the morning. She needed a nice fat chicken for the occasion and was negotiating with a neighbour for the process of separating a hen from its head. I was mortified.
I argued so strongly that I could do the deed that finally she relented and gave me an axe and pointed toward one of her hens. Although the Anne Boleyn execution was probably neater by comparison, it wasn’t long before that unfortunate bird had found its final resting place — my mother’s dinner platter. I was held up as the man of the house. Alexander the Great was never prouder of one of his conquests.
Now, only three weeks later, here I was once again having administered the deadly stroke to another of our barnyard fowl and I had done it without being told to. Something befitting the man of the house!
How was I to know she wasn’t planning on having chicken for dinner that Sunday? How was I to know that I had dispatched the only rooster in their flock of hens? How was I to know at that early age the relationship existing between chickens and roosters? Especially with a lot of chickens and only one unfortunate rooster who probably thought he was among the most fortunate of feathered creatures.
Just goes to show, as my father said when he found out about it, that you should always count your blessings while you can.
Somehow, I knew he wasn’t talking about me.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.