My father wasn’t much of a cook but he always washed the dinner dishes and took pride in his work. It was my job to dry and put them away.
Sometimes we listened to the ball game on the radio and other times we talked about my homework—which always came after dishes and before television. One night, I noticed that a plate had some food left on it and I handed it back to my father.
“What’s the problem?” he asked.
“You didn’t get it clean,” I said.
“A good drier never finds food on a plate,” he said.
What he meant, I realized, was if food got left on a plate, a good drier wiped it off without saying anything. This seemed dishonest to me and I wanted to say so, but I just kept picking up the dishes and listening to the ballgame.
This was many years ago now, but just recently I was drying dishes for my husband and found a plate with some food left on it. I almost handed it back—and then I heard my father’s voice saying, “A good drier never finds food on a plate.”
I had lived long enough to know that this rule wasn’t about honesty; it was about kindness. And it wasn’t about dishes, either.