At 10 years old, I didn’t understand much about the ways of grownups, but I knew punishment work when I saw it.
“What’d you do?” I asked him.
“Do?” he responded. “How do you mean?”
“To get in trouble,” I said.
He chuckled bitterly, “Son, I been in trouble since the day I was born.”
Confused, I asked, “You mean you’ve always been bad?”
“Not exactly,” he said. “At least not on the inside. But you’ll find out soon enough that that ain’t what matters to lots of folks. It’s the outside of me is all they can see, and they don’t care for it much.”
“That don’t make any sense to me,” I said. “You look just fine to me.”
“Why, thank you, sir, ” he said as he bowed graciously. “If only everyone could be so blind.”
He stood beside me 46 years later, watched me sign the bill, shook my hand, and said those exact same words.