A lesson in Love: A Boy, A Fire and the Matchsticks


My father was born into a family who didn’t want him, whose own father abandoned him and his step father beat him.  As a young boy, my dad learned hatred, anger, abuse and survival.  At 8 years old, my father was forcefully removed from the only home (his grandparents home) he ever felt loved.  Taken by his mother to do his step fathers bidding. For the next 10 years my father would suffer great emotional, physical and mental anguish as a result his step father and mother.  He grew up an impatient child full of anger, resentment and trust issues.

My father survived.  He grew into a remarkable and successful man.  A miracle most in this situation never achieve.  Yet, this isn’t the greatest miracle of all, the miracle is that he was able to overcome this and be a great father to 6 boys.  His lessons, although some have taken a life time to understand were taught by example.

One such teaching moment was expressed at his funeral by my older brother, the oldest of us 6 boys.  A lesson I never comprehended until the day of his funeral, for this story had never been talked about much until that day.

This story takes place on a warm summer day, a day I remember as a young 4 year old boy. My inquisitive older brother was always wanting to understand how things worked.  He was 6 years old at the time.  He had learned that is was possible to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together and creating friction.

He spent hours trying to get this to work, much to no avail.  An idea popped into head, maybe the two stick are supposed to be match sticks.  Off he went to get the matchsticks, certain that this would be the solution.

It worked!

He rubbed the ends of those two sticks together and sure enough, FIRE!

Surprised that it actually worked, he dropped the two sticks into a pile of dry leaves that quickly spread into the several trees filling the fence line between ours and our neighbors homes.  The trees were engulfed into flames.

Quickly my brother grabbed the garden hose in an attempt to put out the flames.  Unfortunately for him he was unsuccessful as it took three fire departments responding to put out the flames.

In the end, the only damage done was to the trees and the fence.  The homes were safe and no one was injured.

For me as a small child, the story ends there.  For my brother, it was a lesson he learned early on that I was unable to hear and learn until the day we buried my dear father.

My dad arrived as quickly home from work as possible after the fire to check on his family.  He took my brother and left for the evening.  It was here in this one on one moment between my dad and my brother that the true miracle of my dad’s life was made evident.

My dad was a deeply impatient and at times angry individual because of the severe abuse and neglect he suffered as a child.  This abuse haunted him until the day he died.  He was famous for his short temper and outbursts when things didn’t go right.  At times, he yelled and he cursed.  He had not tolerance or patience for stupidity.

The reality however of this curse my father lived with was clearly made evident in this and all interactions with his children.

As my father and older brother left for the evening, My dad went to get an ice cream with my brother.   The two of them sat there eating ice cream and talking about the fire and what happened.  My dad, instead of yelling or being angry, thanked my brother for trying to save the house with the garden hose.

My dad showed in this moment, truly what would be the hallmark of his life.  While he had no tolerance or patience for mistakes with himself, he was deeply patient and tolerant of the mistakes of his family and children.  While my dad lived with a curse from his childhood that would never allow him to forgive himself for mistakes, he lovingly and patiently allowed everyone else the ability to make mistakes.

What my father could never give himself, he gave to everyone else.

Love and Patience and Understanding.

24 thoughts on “A lesson in Love: A Boy, A Fire and the Matchsticks

  1. This was such a loving tribute to what your father overcame. He was a wonderful father, although impatient. But, in the end, he showed this ‘hallmark’ moment of his life. How he thanked your brother for trying to put out the fire, he was seeing the light behind his actions. He didn’t yell nor scold. This is how my Dad was, too. (His childhood was more of ambivalence and neglect. He had to work to make money for his mother to be able to pay rent, hitch-hiking across state lines at age 11 through his high school years. A truck driver guided him to a good decision in going to college. This turned his life around, the hope at the end of the tunnel, then meeting Mom at college, too.) He did not have a lot of hatred in him, but he yelled a lot. He spanked us and sometimes was shouting over little things. He came ‘through’ for us, in the ways he handled big things: crises and the holidays. I thoroughly enjoyed this post today, hope you didn’t mind my sharing how this touched my memories of my own Dad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for sharing your memories and the lessons in them with me. Your dad sounds like a good man, who overcame obstacles planned before him. It is through these lessons of others if we are truly desirous to improve and be better each new generation will be better than the one before. Thank you


  2. Pingback: A lesson in Love: A Boy, A Fire and the Matchsticks | junglepackworkbook

  3. This touches me. I’ve had to struggle with anger reactions, and the experience inspires me to work with others and spread the word about ways to decrease the influence of such an emotion.

    I can also relate to giving more credit to the kids I do therapy with than myself. Your article really brought out this realization.

    Thank you.


  4. As your dad proves, t is often the hardships we survive that gives us the greatest insight. He was able to remember how he was treated and it sounds like he walked away from a terrible childhood with the best possible lesson he could have learned from his own pain, make your children’s lives better than your own. He sounds like a wonderful father and I am sorry for your loss.


    • It does. I am truly amazed at his strength. It took a lifetime of learning the pieces of his life as he was a very quiet man in regards to his childhood. As I learned more and more over my life of his story, the greater admiration and respect and also understanding I have. I am at times in awe of what he was able to overcome and become. Thank you for you great comments and support!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. a beautifully written tribute indeed…Howling at the moon
    The one on one with your brother was the moment of love between them, he (your Dad) made it personal and special to discuss, learn from and heal together. (((Awhoooo)))


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