“When my father didn’t have my hand… he had my back.”
Today’s story is contributed by Jason Dwurple.
Until I was 14 or so, my life at school was hell.
Every day, a new humiliation.
My name is Jason Dwurple — yep, you heard right. As if being the only Catholics in a small town wasn’t bad enough, I grew up with the strangest name on the planet (Dwurple became “Dorkel,” “Twirple” — you get the idea).
For these reasons and more, I was a natural target. I was bullied unmercifully day after day.
Today there is public awareness of how bad bullying can be. Not when I was young. It was largely ignored — “just part of growing up.”
I didn’t tell my parents — I was embarrassed. I didn’t want Mom to worry. And Dad — well, we were never that close.
I was sensitive, pensive and awkward, the polar opposite of Dad. In fact, I spent most of my childhood thinking I was a disappointment to him. Unlike me, my father was a tough guy, a character. People laughed at his jokes. They listened when he spoke.
Dad was born tough, funny Dwurple name and all. He started boxing at age ten — and kept on all the way into his twenties.
Dad claimed he was “allergic” to complaining. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he liked to say. “And if it is broke, get her fixed. Don’t sit around whining about it.”
The bullying got worse.
I was taunted, teased, ignored and snickered at. Downright meanness behind my back… and to my face.
My parents noticed I was becoming more and more withdrawn. Mom prodded me, “What’s wrong?” Dad tried to tease me out of my funk. I simply avoided their questions.
Until the day I came home with a black eye… “What the hell happened?” my Dad demanded. The problem was obvious, I had to come clean: “A boy at school was teasing me about my name, and how I dressed,” I said. “Then he hit me in the face.”
I hung my head in shame. I expected Dad to give me a “toughen up” speech (like when I was reluctant to try out for sports).
“He did what to you?” he asked quietly, with a compassionate tone. “Who the hell is this kid?” Dad hissed louder. “No one puts a hand on my boy.”
Dad bolted from the table — and went straight out the door. My tormenter, you see, was a neighborhood boy. (We’ll call him Tim). He lived just a few streets away.
As Dad would later tell (it became family lore), he marched straight over to Tim’s. Tim’s Dad answered the door. “I need to speak to your son. As his father, you need you to understand what’s been going on.”
Dad told Tim’s father, sharing every painful detail I shared with him. When Tim came to the door, he heard it from both ends… Scolded by my dad and his. Boy, would I have liked to be a bug on the wall.
Then Dad made Tim promise, “You won’t ever touch my boy again… or you’ll be dealing with me.”
I can still picture Tim’s jaw dropping. It still makes me smile.
That was a turning point for me. For Tim, too. He didn’t bother me again. A few years later we would become friends.
Dad’s sticking up for me helped give me the confidence all that bullying had stripped away. Dad had my back.
I became less awkward, more confident. As a result, I became more popular and liked too. I will never be the tough, assertive man my father is. It just isn’t me.
But thanks to my dad, I feel confident in my skin. I don’t take crap from anyone. And, I am proud to say I’m Bob Dwurple’s son.
It makes all the difference when you know your dad (or wife, or friend, or kid) has your back.
Jason is a software engineer who lives and works in Silicon Valley, California. His father, Bob, is a retired contractor. After Jason’s mother Linda, passed away in 2011, Bob moved from northern Virginia to California to be closer to his only son.