When it comes to making purchases, most people follow a system of rules. Before an item is purchased, for example, it must be something they need or want. With my dad though, it's not really a requirement to need or even like something. The decision seems to come down to one thing; volume discount.

Happily, my dad would purchase quantities of shirts, tools, shoes, tools, aquarium fish, tools, pecan trees, tools, and tools. Usually, his purchases only affected him. There were times, however, when my dad would hit a dry spell, and could no longer find stuff to buy for himself. During these lulls, his system of volume discount trickled down on our family.

This could be a source of great tension. Like the time I came home to find my dad up on a ladder in my bedroom. He was replacing my light fixture with a very ornate, crystal chandelier. Umm.. I was a teenager. My room was painted purple, my furniture was painted blue, and my walls were covered with posters of rock stars.

Oh, I knew that if my rock stars could come down from their posters, they'd take their guitars and smash that chandelier to bits, then return to the safety of their posters. But I didn't have the safety of a poster in which to hide, so I knew I'd have to cope.

As it turned out, my dad could get a good discount if he ordered two, but a better discount for ordering four. So while some of our friends grew up with their own telephones or tvs, my siblings and I each had a crystal chandelier of our very own.

My mom has more patience than anyone I know but, on rare occasion, her patience flickers. When she does pop her lid, there exists this glimmer of hope to be present, witnessing her in action. I thought the day the delivery men showed up on our doorstep, with six identical brown recliners, would be one of them. I just looked at them and yelled, "Mom!"

My mom showed the delivery men into our family room. She had them line up the recliners, single file, along the wall of the room. Whatever warmth our family room held, seemed overshawdowed by this dark, massive row.

I had plenty of things I could do that day, and a few things I should do, but all I wanted was to be there when my dad got home. I wanted to watch my mom, in all her glory, be an advocate for our family. I even took some delight in trying to decide on which recliner to wait. But a child -- even a teen child -- can only be so brash, so I chose the neutrality of the sofa.

When my dad came home that night, even he noticed the discord that the recliners brought to our home. My mom was very quiet during dinner. And although my dad looked up at her several times, he remained silent.

After dinner though, my mom sat down on one of the new recliners. Maybe that was her way of telling him it was all right. My dad sat next to her and, tentatively, tried for a bit of humor, "If I buy two more recliners, we could run a retirement home." She didn't even bother looking up from the newspaper; she moistened her fingers and turned the page.