I’m going to be the one who washes the dishes.
I’ve known this for awhile now but it wasn’t always this clear to me, in fact, I probably didn’t wash a load of dishes before I was twenty-one.
Why? Because my dad washes the dishes, he always has.
It worked, and still does, just like this at my parents’ house: take a plate, enjoy the food, put it in the sink, and then do it all over again. If I hadn’t heard my dad say “I’ll do the dishes” on countless occasions I would have believed we had dishwashing gnomes.
Today our kitchen remains small, even for our family of four, so that means no space for a dishwasher. Dishes are done with rags, soap, and pruney hands. Over the years of my youth, a cherished few of my mother’s china and glassware went into those sudsy depths but did not come out, casualties of dad’s big soapy fingers.
There was never a doubt though, that dad did the dishes.
I remember the first time my parents left my brother and I at home for a weekend; they drove to Vermont with friends, leaving us with an ample supply of food and warnings about the stove. With no parents to limit our snacking, we quickly depleted our stores, but the first thing to run out was spoons. You can eat a bowl of cereal with a fork if you have to, but butter knives are not an option. Refusing to waste our precious free time with washing dishes, we broke out the plastic partyware. I’m a bit embarrassed by the story now, especially the part where my dad did all the dishes the night he arrived home.
Washing dishes is a bit like washing feet, they’re someone else’s personal filth, and you’d rather not have to worry about anyone’s—your own included. In spite of this, my father washes all our dishes without complaint. He doesn’t ask for help, he doesn’t demand justice, and he’s very thorough. I offered to help once and he told me to go enjoy myself, and I did, because nobody would rather be washing the dishes.
By washing the dishes when he could have been enjoying himself, my dad taught me service. By washing my dirty dishes more than once a day, my dad showed me what love is.
Love is very often an uncomplicated thing. The heights of love might see one die for another, but the depths of love hardly make a splash in the kitchen sink. For the depths of love are quiet, a place where the affect of simple actions echo over great distances.
This is a picture of the upside-down kingdom. My father, owing me nothing, serves me and I, owing him a great many things, accept this service gratefully–most of the time. Although, perhaps he is spoiling me, and I’ve turned out entitled and insufferable, ruined by a lifetime of being served.
Maybe. But I know one for sure: I will wash the dishes.