We were sitting around a bonfire beside the lake. We hadn’t been talking about our fathers; in fact we had been talking about Warren Buffet the billionaire. We were talking about how we’d recently seen a documentary story on the frugal and wise investor. We were commenting on how he’d told his children that he wasn’t leaving them his billions and how they seemed to be just fine with that. Mr. Buffet had obviously taught his children some good ethics and morals and we all agreed that children should not expect to receive anything when their parents die.
“My father didn’t leave me anything” he said. “Lots of people think that’s how I got this house, but my father didn’t leave me a cent.”
He was staring into the fire as he spoke.
“My dad used to tell me these bad jokes. Well, they weren’t really jokes exactly. They were strange. It’s hard to explain.”
We could see him trying to remember, to find the right words.
“Well, here’s an example of one.”
Hayman’s father told him to climb up onto the first rung of the ladder and then jump to him. “I’ll catch you”, he said. So Hayman climbed the first rung of the ladder and jumped into his fathers arms. “Now climb to the next rung and jump to me.” Haymen jumped into his fathers arms again. When he jumped from about the fifth rung Hayman’s father stepped back and let his son fall without catching him.
My dad said “You see! Trust no one.”
We were all quiet for a moment. “Um, well, I guess he thought that was an important lesson for you,” someone offered.
“I guess,” he said quietly. “He did teach me to swim!” He said it enthusiastically and we all felt reassured until…
“Yep, he threw me into the lake and called out not to worry, that he’d save me if I started to drown”.
Of course, he swam.
We all sat silent, imagining him as a very young boy, wildly kicking his legs and flapping his arms, willing himself to the surface. And we knew too that as he gasped for air and propelled himself out of the water, poor little Hayman was very much on his mind.