Walter, a great young keyboardist, was lots of fun but had to do things his own way. He was always right. He gave up two great jobs, playing in a local restaurant and worship leader at church, to make it big in Music City.
People loved to hear him play and sing. But, sometimes in church, he seemed to pick songs that would showcase him and his talent instead of leading the congregation in worship.
He just knew he could make it as a Nashville studio musician. You know that inner feeling that says, “I know that I know that I know that I can”?
On The Road
With bank account emptied and in his pocket, he walked to the main road heading north out of the small Alabama town. He had his keyboard case in one hand and backpack with bedroll slung over his other shoulder. It wouldn’t be long until somebody would stop and offer him a ride. He didn’t need a car, contrary to what his dad said. But the hours passed. He walked.
He knew he wouldn’t have to walk much farther. Somebody from town would pick him up on their way north to Tennessee. Everybody in town knew he was headed to Nashville. He made sure they knew.
Thinking back over the last few weeks, he received lots of “well wishes”, but no going away party. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll have a job the first day or two playing with one of the top bands or studio musician groups,” he said to himself. “I’ll show them all.”
I’ve Got It All Figured Out
People tried to talk him into planning his move, contacting studios, sending out demos of his work, but no. His dad harped on him about getting a car and having money in the bank, but he knew he’d have a job the day he arrived. He knew he was right.
He kept walking. Several cars had gone by. One car he knew well, the driver even smiled and waved, but didn’t stop. Nobody stopped!
His feet began to hurt, “Why didn’t I wear my comfortable shoes?” he said out loud.
His water bottle – Empty! It had been an extra hot day. He knew he had enough food and water. He didn’t think he would need a lot because he wouldn’t be walking that long. Visions danced through his head of somebody buying him lunch or maybe a steak dinner.
Still walking. His feet hurt. His stomach growled.
He looked at his surroundings as he wiped his brow with his shirt sleeve. He had only walked about 15 miles. At this rate, it was going to take him a week or more to get to Nashville.
A Night With The Critters
The sun began to slip below the horizon. His stomach growled, again. He reached into his backpack for a bag of trail mix, the only thing he brought because he was so positive he’d be in Nashville before sunset. He looked inside, “Maybe I should have planned better. One bag left.” He took a handful and put the bag back. “I’m going to need some to eat tomorrow. If nobody picks me up tomorrow, it’s another 20 miles to the diner and the little store.”
The shadows lengthened into darkness. He knew there was an old barn up ahead about a half-mile or so, that would be a good place to bed-down for the night. It took another 45 minutes to get there.
He had passed the barn hundreds of times but hadn’t really looked at it. He couldn’t tell how broken down it was until he stepped inside. Most of the roof had fallen in. He anticipated making his bed on a pile of hay, but there were only a few thin stalks on the floor. Many of the boards from the side were now piles of old lumber strewn inside and out.
He could hear critters scurrying out of his way as he invaded their home, hoping none of the critters were snakes. Shutters went through his body, as he envisioned snakes crawling over him during the night. There were stories about rattlers curling up by people to stay warm.
He cautiously crawled up on what was left of a loft and stretched out his bedroll.
“Well, at least it’s up off the ground,” he said out loud. “No snakes.”
He didn’t ever remember being this tired or hungry. Sleep overtook him the minute he laid his head down.
I Couldn’t Have Been Wrong
It seemed like only minutes until the sun began peeking over the horizon with the rooster crowing to announce its arrival. Walter roused enough to try to roll over only to be wakened by something slithered over his leg. He jumped and looked down to notice a lizard.
This wasn’t as much fun as he had imagined. He reached into his backpack for the trail mix – only half a bag and no water. He’d have to keep his eyes open for the stream up ahead to refill his water bottle. Maybe he could find fresh berries or something.
He walked for what seemed like an eternity. He looked at his watch, almost noon. Again, cars passed him.
“My thumb is out, isn’t that supposed to mean that I want a ride?”
Some honked and waved, but nobody stopped.
His hunger and thirst got worse. He saw the bridge that went over the creek if it still had water. The summer had been extraordinarily hot. Water was needed, soon. Progress was much slower than the day before.
He climbed down alongside the bridge to the creek – only a couple puddles of muddy water.
“I can’t drink that.”
Don’t Want To Hear It
He heard a car coming down the road so he hurried up to the road just as the pickup pulled up beside him. Walter stopped – his dad.
Dad rolled down the window, “Want a ride? I’m going to Knoxville. I can take you that far.”
“No, I can make it,” Walter said.
“Oh, come on. You still have over a hundred-fifty miles to go. I’ll buy you lunch.”
Lunch cinched the deal.
Walter put his pack in the back of the truck and climbed in. He wouldn’t look at Dad. He had been so sure he could do this all by himself and do it his way.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Walter said. “I’m going to Nashville and that’s that.”
“I’m not disagreeing,” Dad, said. “I needed to go to Knoxville for some parts I ordered. I can let you out anywhere along the way. Maybe Chattanooga? You can take I-24 on up to Nashville. Let’s stop up here at the diner and get lunch first. Okay?”
They ate in silence. Back on the road, Walter leaned against the door and was asleep in minutes. Dad woke him as they approached Chattanooga to see if he wanted out, but Walter waved him on through.
As Walter slept, Dad thought about him and his insistence on going to Music City to make his way as a musician. He knew Walter was talented, no question about that. But it wasn’t going to be as easy as Walter let on. Dad wondered if he really believed it.
Walter always had to be right, to “win” every argument or discussion. He always had to have the last word. It seemed like every argument Walter engaged in always escalated to a shouting match with anger flaring on both sides. Nobody disagreed with him about pursuing a career in music, but the way he left was just not okay.
A right-fighter is someone who struggles to win arguments, even if they doubt their own view. A right-fighter is someone who gets overly emotional or angry when people do not agree with them and their opinions or beliefs. A right-fighter is someone who insists on having the last word in an argument or refuses to back down no matter what.—Dr. Shawn Byler, Ph.R.D. in Psychology*
Dad glanced over at Walter asleep on the other side of the truck. He looked like when he used to ride with him in the big truck when he was little. Dad wiped a tear.
He remembered all the times when Walter would get into arguments with his older siblings. It seemed that he always had to be first to answer, like by being first and being right helped him feel better about himself.
Dad guessed he came by it naturally. Walter’s mother was the same way. She never would admit she was wrong, even when faced with conclusive facts. At first, he sought help. He was told that “loved ones around a woman right-fighter experience consistent feelings of defeat and learn to seriously doubt their capabilities, lovability, and value as a human. Any time parents have low self-esteem, the children will too.”
Make it Work
In the early days of their marriage he would try to prove her wrong, but invariably she would spin the situation so it still came across that she was right or at least he was wrong. Then he tried to just walk away, but she wouldn’t allow that either. She had to fight it through.
Instead of arguing with her, he began spending more and more time away from home. He even took a job as an over-the-road truck driver only home on weekends, which seemed to work much better. They didn’t have as many arguments and she took care of most of the home business. It worked.
But, she got worse as she got older. Unfortunately, Walter, being the youngest, took the brunt of her right-fighting. The older kids followed Dad’s example and were gone much of the time with one activity or another. But, Walter was too young to escape.
Even now, he wouldn’t admit he was wrong about how he left home. He had to be right. He couldn’t admit that perhaps he made a mistake. The philosophy of a right-fighter is ‘in order for me to be right, you need to be wrong‘. Walter seemed to be even more bullheaded than his mother. What was it going to take for him to change?
His wife passed away about a year ago from a sudden illness. He wished it had been different between them. He missed spending time with her, but it worked.
Now, Dad is here. Walter is here.