Thought you might might like this Readers Digest story about my dad from 1963 … Like the “horse whisperer” expression which he used in the 1958 “Horse Tamer”, he always could spot a good phrase.
Have a sweet day!
Never the Small Stuff
W. W. Ward
Walter is a changed man,” Rosemary Farley told my wife one night at the Venice, Fla., Yacht Club. “That white jacket he’s wearing came back from the cleaners today with two spots on the right sleeve. Normally he would have hit the ceiling. This time he just smiled and put it on and went in to kiss the kids goodnight.”
A little later one of the members tripped and dumped his martini into Walter’s lap. I was sitting next to him, and I drew back politely to give him room in which to-explode. “Don’t worry,” Walter smiled at the chagrined man. “It will dry in a few minutes.”
At dinner that evening I got a collect long-distance call from a no-good ex-friend whom I haven’t heard from in years. He was already into me for a few hundred bucks.
Now he told me he was stranded in Dallas and needed $20 to get back to his gold mine in Mexico. Would I wire it to him tonight, please?
I went back to our table, fuming. The nerve of that guy! I grumbled through dessert and scowled into my coffee. I wouldn’t dance with my wife. Finally she got up to dance with a handsome bachelor.
“I suggest you go have a talk with Walter Parley,” she said pointedly.
I found Walter on the porch. He’s a nice guy. He writes those Black Stallion stories that kids have been crazy about for more than a decade, and recently Random House published his latest opus about Man o’ War. We’re good friends, but I would never have said that he was a paragon of equanimity.
“My wife suggests I talk to you,” I said. “What have you got? Tranquilizers?”
He just grinned. Then he told me what had happened to him. “I had to go to Sarasota the other day. You know what that’s like these days,” he said.
Who didn’t? Construction work is going on, and the miles are tortuous, with bumpy detours from one unfinished lane to the other unfinished lane, with the pace set by the slowest driver.
“I had a 15-year-okl boy with me,” Walter went on. “Friend of the family who wanted a lift to Sarasota. Just outside Venice I got behind a big van —the kind you can’t even see around. Several times I tried to pass him, only to whip back as cars came the other way. I was about to scream, when this boy —this 15-year-old kid —reached over and touched me on the shoulder.
” ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff, Mr. Farley!’ the kid told me.”
It hit him like a bomb. Waller said. He slowed down and began watching the scenery. It was nice, something he was noticing for the first time, with waving palms and glimpses of the bay.
“What that kid said got me thinking about the ‘big sluff’ I could worry about, if f wanted to worry at all,” Walter told me. “But that truck up ahead? Small stuff, really, like spots on my white dinner jacket or somebody spilling a martini into my lap.
“This is the first completely relaxed evening that I can remember. Two or three things have happened that once would have griped me.
Now I just think, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’ and the irritation goes away.”
He grinned at me and got up to go dance with his wife. When I went looking for my wife, she was still dancing with the handsome bachelor and looking entranced. My temper stirred.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” I said to myself, and cut in.
“Thank heavens,” my wife whispered. “What a bore—and the worst dancer on the floor!”
I won’t insist that the kid’s phrase changed my life. But during the next few weeks, when the normal, human quota of irritants occurred, I found that I could forestall the quick flare of temper. My wife and I have talked about it several times. What is the “big stuff” it’s all right to worry about? We made a list together.
Our health. The health of our kids. Their happiness and ours. A certain amount of security. The keeping of good, close friends. Love and understanding between us. Doing the things that are important to ourselves, our loved ones.
The too-rare steak when we ordered medium? A pillowcase lost in the laundry? The red light that takes so long to change? The washing machine breaks? The kids fight? The toast burns? Small stuff. Too little to spoil a day, an hour, a moment!
I don’t know the kid, but I think of him often—him and his wisdom. “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”