• 无论什么时代,童年都是值得回忆的美好岁月
  • 2014/4/15 10:30:39 来源:教育人生网
  •    My brother Tom nudged1) me—hard. He spoke in a low voice. “Walk faster. We have to make it to the front door before Dad sees Mr. Fleming. He’s sitting on a stoop2) across the street.”
    I glanced over my shoulder at our father who walked several paces behind us. He was busy searching through the pockets of his winter coat for the house keys, so he hadn’t yet noticed the man we wished to avoid.
    “If Dad stops to talk to him our lives will be ruined! By tomorrow it will be all over school again that our dad is friendly with a bum3). Remember the last time? I got into that fight at recess because Jim Reed said that Dad was a lowlife just like Mr. Fleming—a miscreant4)—that people of the same kind tend to stick together.”
    I quickened my step in order to keep up with Tom. I didn’t know what a miscreant was, but I figured it was something bad.
    “I don’t know why Dad bothers with him. Mr. Fleming has no job. His family left him. He spent time in jail. He doesn’t even have his own home. He lives in a room he rents in somebody’s house.”
    “Mr. Clements! How are you today?”
    At the sound of Mr. Fleming’s voice my brother rolled his eyes heavenward. Dad halted. So did we.
    Mr. Fleming, wearing a ragged brown wool jacket and too short brown pants, crossed the street. He tipped his battered cap to us before he shook our father’s hand. “Nice to see you and the little ones. Hope your wife is doing well.”
    Although Tom and I cringed5), a smile creased our father’s face. “She’s doing about the best she can with all the changes in our life. I was notified last week that come the first of the year I’ll be out of a job.”
    There was a note6) of genuine concern in Mr. Fleming’s voice when he replied. “I’m sorry to hear that. I thought just the factories were laying off. Didn’t realize things were bad in the corporate world too. If there is anything I can do for you, you just knock on my door.”
    Dad’s brow furrowed as if he was in deep thought before he spoke. “I have a job offer in New Jersey that I’m pretty sure I’ll have to accept. It’s far away, so I’ll only be able to come home on weekends. I’ll need somebody here on a part-time basis to do things such as putting the heavy trash cans on the curb7), shoveling snow and general emergency repairs.”
    Tom realized what Dad was going to do before I did. He interrupted the adult conversation. “I can do all those things! Everybody always says I’m big for my age. I’m strong too.”
    Dad put a hand on Tom’s shoulder. “I know you are, but the only job Mom and I want you to have at this age is that of being a child.” He turned his attention to the other man. “So, Mr. Fleming, if you have the time I would like to hire you to take care of the things here during my absence.”
    Shock, then hope ran across Mr. Fleming’s face. “Are you sure you want to hire me, Mr. Clements? You know what people will say.”
    “Let them talk. I’m hiring you because you are a good man, a hard worker, who made a mistake in his life—a mistake you’ve paid for dearly.”
    The two men shook hands. Tom waited until after Mr. Fleming left before he boldly questioned our Dad’s decision. “You can’t hire him! He’s no good! He’s a jailbird! Nobody will want to be friends with us if he’s around!”
    Dad’s words, when he quoted Martin Luther King Jr., were firm: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Dad looked from my face to Tom’s. “Do you understand? Just because other people won’t approve, our family shouldn’t be afraid to help Mr. Fleming.”
    Tom vehemently8) shook his head. “We’ll be outcasts!” Pushed into action by the way Tom glared at me, I tugged on Dad’s coat. “Everybody says Mr. Fleming is bad. Are they all wrong?”
    Dad cupped my chin in his large hand. “After the factory laid off Mr. Fleming, his little daughter became critically ill. In desperation, he stole the drugs he needed to help keep her alive. He went to prison. While serving his sentence the child died, and his grieving wife returned to her parents where later she also died. He was left with nothing, not even his dignity.”
    I suddenly felt terrible. I could tell by the way Tom looked at the ground instead of up at Dad that he regretted what he’d said about Mr. Fleming. Without exchanging words the two of us silently agreed to never again say or listen to any gossip about Mr. Fleming.
    The new year brought many changes to our family. We only saw our father on the weekends that flew by too quickly, but we didn’t worry when Dad was away because of Mr. Fleming. He handled everything with a smile, from a broken pipe to a leaky roof. Some nights Mom invited him to stay for dinner during which his tales of travels during World War II held our rapt9) attention. And it was Mr. Fleming who carried a bloody Tom four blocks to the hospital for stitches10) when he fell off his bike.
    Despite the good Mr. Fleming did for our family, some people continued to shun him—and now us. Mom was dropped from several committees. Tom and I were not invited to classmates’ parties. Strangely enough, we found that none of this bothered us as much as we thought it would.
    Dad eventually found a job close to home and Mr. Fleming found employment on the other side of the country. We didn’t keep in contact, but he did send a Mass card11) when Dad died the year I was eleven.
    The years passed, and life went on. Every girl dreams of her father walking her down the aisle on her wedding day and I was no different. I ached with emotional pain and whispered, “Oh Daddy, how I wish you were here.”
    On the morning of my wedding mother placed a box before me as I sat at my dressing table. “This is from your father. I promised him I would give this to you on your wedding day. He said you would know what it meant.”
    I opened the gift with trembling hands. Inside the tissue lay a brass ruler with my dad’s initials engraved on it. In that special place in my heart where memories dwell I heard my father’s voice, loud and clear. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
    In a roundabout way I was granted my wish, and received the best advice a father could give his daughter on her wedding day. Dad’s brass ruler remains with me to this day, reminding me to always stand true to myself regardless of circumstances or consequences.

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