Monday, October 17, 2011

loss, language, and a love letter.

be warned. i go off into the weeds in this one. really. i make blanket generalizations and assume a lot about what people do and do not do anymore. so if you have anything better to do i'd suggest doing it.

it started with andy rooney and morley safer on 60 minutes. okay, it started with my father dying...but the actual can't keep back the choking sobs started with andy rooney's farewell interview on 60 minutes a few weeks back.

i know what you're thinking, she's not going off into the weeds, she's smoking weed! (and yes, people still say weed. i know because i asked.) but bear with me. or go clean your fridge. it's up to you.

anyway, i couldn't get enough of listening to the two of them talk. the language. the timbre of their voices. like discovering full fat butter after growing up on tubs of country crock. and i got up and left the room and went to the bathroom and shut the door and started to sob.

people don't speak like that anymore.

and then i heard harry belafonte being interviewed on npr. and i got the same feeling. like i could listen to him forever. again, the richness of his language, the thoughtful way he spoke, you could feel his heart in his words. and i tried to keep the tears back while i made my way through traffic.

people don't speak like that anymore.

my father spoke like that.

i miss that about my father.

i miss my father.

he drove me crazy when he monologued when i was younger, but as i got older i appreciated our conversations. well, mostly. he could still drive me crazy. and during our last visit i spent it mostly listening to him speak. about everything and nothing. just soaking it in. and as his days here on earth waned i appreciated hearing from him on the telephone. just hearing his voice.

i wish i had recorded him.

my father could hold a whole conversation with himself and still keep you engaged. he knew words and meanings and phrases no one else did, and he strung them together so beautifully. and his voice. it was deep and rich, and he knew how to pause, and to dip, and to draw out and it was like a perfectly coordinated dance.

people don't speak like that anymore.

people don't use language anymore. they don't have conversations. they just talk. text. type. they don't pull words out of their head in mid conversation and float them out there in hopes that they convey what they mean them to. typing and spell check and delete makes everything more crafted and less interesting. at least less spontaneous.

not my father, language was and remained incredibly important to him. he got it from his own mother, this idea that words always meant something. everything. the idea that you don't just toss words about, and that you don't use a cheap and easy word when there are so many magnificent ones to choose from. that you don't abuse language. ever. even as he was being admitted into a strange nursing home room that he was certain to know would be the last room he would know, my younger sister and i were admonished for our use of language with the nurse. he felt we were in poor taste and being crass.

and whenever i think about this i can't hold back the sobs. because i won't hear him again.

and i think about kids these days, and young adults and how no one really has conversations anymore. and i know there is merit in the use of screens and text, and that life changes, and we adapt, but i can't help but mourn real live conversation.

but who am i to talk. pun intended. when i lost my house and had to move so far i all but stopped speaking on the telephone. and since my father died even more so. i can't think of what i would say if someone asked how i was doing. i can't find one more way to say 'okay' and not start sobbing and put us all in that awkward moment. people get tired of grief. they don't know what to do with it. and so i don't force the issue. i figure if i jaw on about in my blog it's their fault if they read. ;)

which makes it even more lonesome to be so far away from family and friends, people with whom i talked with. not only on the phone, but in actual person, on holidays, and during bbqs at the farm. i don't have that here. a bit, here and there, but not on the regular. like it used to be. and the more the year catches up with me and the more grief i bear the less i want to speak.

but i remember conversation. especially when i was younger. and there were few responsibilities and no social media and no one ever lost a house or a parent and hanging out and talking with friends was the best time ever. real live conversation. jesus, i sound old.

and i remember one of my very favorite people to have a conversation with was my friend kelly. he and i used to talk.all.the.time. sometimes for hours. there was this little park in our hometown we had our own nickname for and we'd go there. and if it was nice we'd head out to where the park rose into a little knoll and we'd pick a spot just shy of the top and we were off. if it was cold we'd sit in his car. it didn't matter. even if all we had was 10 minutes we'd take it.

we talked about everything and nothing. like you do when you're 16 and 17 and 18 and the world couldn't be more confusing and amusing. and if we weren't at the park we'd talk on the phone.

all of my friends were fabulous conversationalists, but kelly was my favorite. we were actually very different people, but he wasn't afraid to go to the places people are afraid to go in conversation because it's so unformed or new or scary. to explore those differences. and when you are a girl teenager or a boy teenager that's everything. because it meant being able to let go of some of the guard. and going to that place of being so sure you knew it all and yet none of it made any sense. and we could admit that. so, we did. and we'd try and figure it all out with words.

those conversations lasted for years, and then when we were apart we wrote letters. i hadn't thought about that in so long. but kelly was also my most constant letter writing companion.

and in those conversations and letters i learned what i thought about the world. and how that shaped who i was. was going to be. when you have everything floating around inside and you have someone who will not only listen, but respond, it's such a gift. especially someone so gifted with language. someone who understands the importance language.

and writing to kelly was some of the first 'writing' i did. i think because i always respected him as a person and a musician i was trying to make it to that level of being 'interesting enough.' and i found i had a voice when i wrote. plus, in some ways i suppose i was trying to impress him. and so i tapped into the writer in me to do so. all because i was under the misguided notion that he was cooler than me. we have since worked that misconception out. ;)

and yes, he talked about girls. and i talked boys. and we gossiped worse than two women over a backyard fence.

i always say my friends in high school saved me. i think my father thought so, too. he was grateful for my friendships, for what they gave me, and he loved my friends. he especially loved kelly. he once told me that kelly was the kind of boy he'd love for me to marry.

kelly and i did not date or grow up to marry. but there's something very sweet and precious about close friendships at that age. opposite sex or same sex friendships. i recently read an interview with jonah hill and he's talking about the sleeping bag scene at the end of 'superbad' (which is my favorite, BTW) and he said "The great romance of your youth is your best friend at that age." and i am inclined to agree.

i am feeling especially fragile these days. and anything that reminds me that there was a 'before' to all of 'now' is so dear to me. and i don't want to stay so long here where it's sad and i have a hard time keeping the tears back. but i'm here and while i'm here i want to be reminded that things used to be sweet and precious. to be reminded of my father in the positive. not just gone. because it helps.

which brings this full circle, i hope...the other day kelly told me he was going to go by the house i grew up in. just drive by. a bit of a pilgrimage. and until he said that's what he was going to do i didn't know that that's what needed to be done. but of course it does. i've always said that kelly knew me before i knew myself. and it's because we sat on that grassy knoll for so many hours talking about everything and nothing at all.

dear kelly,

thank you. it made all the difference in the world.

and when you drive by the house pour one out for my father, wouldja?

with love,



gojirama said...

X, keep writing and saying these words. I'm listening. And thank God for Kelly.

Lone Star Ma said...