He lived with his parents in a small terraced house and went to work at the same factory as his father.
One day, in his spare time, he was helping Father Ignatius paint the wooden fence at the very end of the back gardens; the one separating the Church grounds from the fields beyond.
In conversation, Harvey explained to the wise priest how his parents really knew very little of the modern world. How they lived in ancient times. How their expectations and ambitions were out of sequence with reality. Harvey felt that his parents held him back somewhat. They insisted on his being at home at a certain time … “Can you imagine that? I am 19, and they still want to know who I go out with and where! Archaic or what … I tell you!”
Father Ignatius put down the pot of paint he was holding and sat down on the small step ladder they had brought with them to reach the top of the wooden fence.
“When you look at your parents, Harvey,” he asked, “what do you see?”
Harvey looked at him in puzzlement and replied “I see Mom and Dad … of course!”
“Silly question, I suppose,” continued the priest, “but I’ll ask it again … what do you really see?”
“I don’t know what you’re on about … you’re a bit like them at times Father … you don’t speak straight!”
Father Ignatius laughed.
“It is natural, and a good thing of course, for children to see Mom and Dad when they look at their parents.
“Mom and Dad brought them into this world. Mom and Dad took care of them when they were young. Mom and Dad were involved in their up-bringing and their education. They took time off to attend all the school events such as sports day, music evening and whatever else.
“Your parents did that for you; am I right?”
Harvey nodded. The priest continued.
“Your father often drove you in his old battered car wherever you needed to go to … like the Saturday football games.
“Your mother made sure you had a packed lunch every day at school, and you had clean clothes every day …”
"Yeh … I understand …” Harvey interrupted.
“I am not criticizing you Harvey,” said the priest gently, “what I’m saying is that our parents care for us. I know mine did … even after I left home and went to Italy to study for the priesthood. My mother used to send me packets of a special cake she used to bake in case Italian food was not nourishing enough!”
“And your parents care for you too … they always will. It’s in the genes as they say.”
“But that’s not what I meant when I said what do you see when you look at your parents.” continued Father Ignatius.
“Most people would say, just as you said … I see Mom and Dad.
“Not many people see an individual human being. A woman and a man. People, no different to you and I.
“People who at one time were children themselves. And they grew up with their own hopes, their own worries and their own fears. People, like every one else, struggling in this world to make the best of their lives, and that of their children.
“We do tend to see our parents differently than anyone else. We see Mom and Dad … we don’t see the people beyond Mom and Dad … the people who are Mom and Dad.
“Our parents are people with their own personal abilities, limitations and foibles. People with their own personal emotions and characteristics and personalities; developed and honed through years of circumstances and experiences which life threw at them.
“Our parents may well curtail our freedoms somewhat … they may well appear ancient and from a different age … but I’m sure they mean well. They behave the way they do because they are human and they have their own human characteristics.
“I know my parents meant well when they tried to teach me right from wrong. Do you think yours do?”
“I suppose …” mumbled Harvey.
“Of course they do,” confirmed the wise old priest, “the thing is … parents too tend to see their children as children … they seldom see beyond the child, and see a growing young man or woman with their own characters, weaknesses, needs and so on. A child your age is eager to explore the world around him … nothing wrong with that. But sometimes parents can’t see that … they forget how they were at that age.
“For a parent, a child is always a child … it’s often very difficult to let go. But they do it out of love.
“Do you think your parents love you?” the priest asked directly.
“Yes … of course.” said the young man emphatically.
“Good …” replied the priest, “you’re right of course.
“… And I’m sure you’ll remember that when in turn one day in the future, you too will become a parent and you’ll love your own children just as your parents love you. You too will not be able to let go … And I suspect your children will think you’re an old relic from times gone by worthy of an exhibit in a museum!”
“Now let’s get on with the painting …” continued Father Ignatius.
Harvey smiled as he dipped the paint brush in the pot of paint.
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