Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Son, are you hungry"

My father was a hard working man that selected his words carefully. Truth actually told he never selected more than a mere handful at any one sitting. On odd occasions he would pack me into his work pick-up, a 1957 red Ford, and haul my pre-teen randomness out to my Grandmother’s house in deep west Texas. It was a drive of over 300 miles, straight as an arrow through the Texas desert flatlands and cotton fields. Our mission was always the same. The back of the truck was stacked with building materials. My dad and I would spend the weekend fixing and renovating my Grandmother’s home. It was my father’s generosity and carpentry craft rolled into a gift, given in virtual silence and received by his mother in like silence. At the close of the day Sunday we would pack up and head home across the starry skies and flat plains of Texas. He would return to his regular work that following Monday morning. I would go to school, sleepy as a Mardi Gras partier after an all night parade.

On those long rides down the straight and dusty Texas highways, my Dad would always say the same thing to me. Its entire content was the useful question, “Son, are you hungry?” If I answered in the affirmative he would pull into some clapboard mom and pop restaurant along the side of the road. His door would open and then slam shut without a word while I tagged along after him. After all, it was perfectly clear to anyone except Larry, Curly and Moe that stopping at the restaurant meant we should go inside and eat. The meal and the remainder of the journey were executed in silence. That is also the manner in which he taught me carpentry. He used words only to make clear the aspects of the craft hidden from visual observation. What could be observed and translated with one’s eyes was assumed to need no explanation by word.

He has been absent from my world for more than 20 years, his early sixties life claimed by a cerebral aneurysm. I miss his silence as though it had been a symphony. And now in the 56th year of my life I work at my own use of words. I work at how to best use them. Or more accurately I wonder how to not use them when silence is the better selection.

Words are surely the most powerful tool we own. They can hurt. We can all give testimony to their sting. They can heal the soul and dry tears just as easily, and this remarkable reversible property is always dependent on how we select the words we wish to use and the tone of voice we use to grant them life.

What I know with the degree of certainty that is the consequential partner of the older man with half a brain remaining is that our words matter a great deal. My words have been missing here for a while, but they have been applied other places, for better or worse. Or maybe they have been spent on the great god of Who Cares. I know my father sometimes seemed to look at words that way. His eyes frequently said “Who cares about all that talking?” Maybe it was nothing more than the silence of his own mother that birthed the silence of the son.

But I have discovered I do care. Words are a gift to be used with wisdom. Ignoring their power and usefulness can be as sinful as using them to negate.

I am working on using words in a better manner. Maybe the path of Goldilocks is what I seek, where my words are neither too few, nor are there too many, but somehow just right. And maybe by some sort of grace the words will even be the correct ones delivered in a suitable and welcomed tone.

For now I am having a small problem with this new exercise. I have been listening very carefully to my questioners and fellow conversators. (yes, conversators is a new word created here for my personal use) Now I think carefully before responding and I try to choose words that are appropriate and carry the proper meaning of what I want to convey. Several people have become agitated at my tardiness and repeated the question thinking I didn’t hear it on first resonance. I suppose next they will merely walk away. If they do they might miss the most carefully thought out and meaningful response I can give. I mean really, it could be very good after I have thought it all out.

You know what they say, “everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” I suppose waiting on me can be a bit like dying if you are already old?


Lynilu said...

Oh, you're back! Yippee-skippee!!

And my dear friend, I've not found your "conversating" to be too little or too much. Whether in humor or in deep introspection, I enjoy your words, your thoughts. You have tickled my thinking on many occasions, and I'm willing to walk with you and listen again while you find the "just right" balance. (As if I thought you needed to, but it's your contribution, and you will do as you will!!)

I will say this .... sometimes fewer words, well-chosen, and exquisite. My brother used to say, "Why use five nickel-words when one well-chosen 25 cent word says it all?"

Welcome back. I'm looking forward to your 25 cent words. :)

Seven said...

Here is my 25 cents. I love you back Miss SL.

Reach said...



It is good you are back and exercising your wordsmith abilities in this arena again. I appreciate your wordiness because your writings are expressions of you. Being one who needs to refocus my personal life in other areas, I completely understand (no, demonstrate) absence. Additionally, as one of your avid readers, I apologize for any agitations.

Mainly, I look forward to more of your well thought and expressed writings.

Be Safe,


Jenn said...

Hey baby! Good to read you again. I, too, have been spending my words outside blogland.

Your post reminded me of my own father - who has been known to finish an entire cigarette in the middle of a sentence as he ponders his words. While one can argue that's not a healthy way to spend one's time, it sure taught me patience when listening to others.

Seven said...

I hope I didn't give the impression of an emotion absent from my thinking. I'm not agitated with any one and especially not you. You have always been a keen contributor here and you are always appreciated. No agitation; every day around here is brighter than the one before.

I have seen men do that very thing in the movies. Its normally right before the 'line' of the movie usually delivered in "Nicholson' style!

rob said...

Nice to have you and your words back. Hello to BEG. I see you graduated to next level, M55+.
I haven't been doing much, but getting ready, slowly for some Aus travel and the Oceania champs. I'll be checking back with you.

Seven said...

Howdy Robert!
Long time since since Orono. Good to hear from you.

kathi said...

What the hell? Geeze, I had no idea you were back. Good to know, though...good to know.
You've been missed.

DaBich said...

I followed kathi here, she sings your praises. I have to agree she has something to sing about.

Perhaps if someone is unwilling/unable to wait for a "good" response from you, they are not deserving of it ;)

~Deb said...

Damn I missed you! (Which means I missed your words terribly!)

"...I wonder how to not use them when silence is the better selection."

In Ecclesiastes in the bible, there's a sentence that resonates with me.

"The more words you speak, the less they mean. So why overdo it?"

In April, I decided to completely stop blogging altogether, because my words were coming out harshly. I was hurt deeply by someone, leaving me cornered, lashing out with stinging words. I realized that my words had great impact and were doing a disservice to not only myself, but those who heard them. I decided to "shut up" - typing or talking. I learned a lot, just like you did, by listening instead.

I totally related to this post. I enjoyed reading the story about you and your father.

Thanks for sharing all that you did. I'm so glad you're back!

~grey said...

Your words... and thoughts always leave me thinking...

You have been missed...

Welcome back!

Silence is the best when listened to.

D (formerly Silent One)(GreySilence)