Monday, July 15, 2013

Looking back at 'Language'

This evening I've been reading through old posts and came across this one from the summer of 2010. When I think of that summer, what comes first to mind is that we watched my mother fail and die in the dog-days of August. I have absolutely NO memory of the weather here at home, the conversation around dinner tables, or any other ordinary moments. I love that I have this blog reminder, this online-journal. It's all here--what I was thinking about as I lived those ordinary days before the surreal cut through, as it does whenever death comes knocking.

So here's a reflective moment from July 2010:
Just when we thought we were going to have to spend the rest of our lives saying, "Oh yeah, I remember the summer of 2010, I think it was a Thursday," the sun with all its magnificent heat finally decided to show up, rest its poor aching feet a bit in our neck of the woods.  Summer's been hanging around the rest of the northern hemisphere for almost a month.  Shoot, even Finland, where Beve's older brother lives, has been experiencing lovely, sweating heat of 27-28 (centigrade) for the last weeks or more.  But here, where, once it appears, there's no where else quite as beautiful as summer, we've had nothing but rain and cold.  March and the occasional February.  With a hint of May just so we don't lose hope completely.

Until yesterday when the sun came out, the wind blew away the clouds and the heat finally began to pound down on us. And it's wonderful. Even as we're moving from fan to fan to fan, it's lovely.  Beve and Uncle R, the Finn, have been sitting under the patio umbrella while E lays in the sun trying to get rid of her sock line.  Good luck to that, I say.  Because of the mowing fields, she and Beve have mower's tans, which they get even in semi-foul weather.  That's what we call them by the way: the mowing fields, as in 'We're off to the mowing fields,' or 'how go the mowing fields?' It's lawn-care lingo, I suppose, along with short-hand like, "the Fosters are at ten days today,' and 'We'll have to dump at Mercers' today.'  After all these years, I've come to speak lawn-care quite fluently, whether I ever wanted to or not.  'How many today?' I'll ask.  And we all know what I mean.

Every job has its language, though, doesn't it?  In my more than quarter-century with Beve, I've learned the language of coaches, counselors and teachers.  In his with me, he's learned a whole lot more about how to talk about writing and editing than he actually has any personal interest in.  We can speak theater with SK, and a little bit of history with J, and a few words of PR have filtered down from E (though they each are really over our heads in their respective areas of interest).

This is true for each person, isn't it?  We have our common language, and then we have our technical tongue, our professional words that we don't often share while sitting around the dinner table with our families.  My father, for instance, was a Mechanical Engineer, but I don't really remember him talking about engineering at our dinner table.  We spoke in our common language.  Or maybe I should say we spoke about the things that concerned the largest number of us, and that the largest number of us around the table could understand.  Certainly my father spoke to my brothers and sister about engineering--they who were inclined toward science and likely to follow in his footsteps.  But not around the table.  Rarely to me (though I do remember him explaining thermodynamics to me when my science teachers could not!). 

My point is that in the best of communities (and the best of families are the best of communities), conversation is broad enough to encompass most of the members.  Language is used that will pull the largest number of people in.  Not always the easiest language--I mean, we want our children, each other, to grow and expand--but language that makes us learn more.  The other evening, we all went to dinner with Grampie and Thyrza.  We were having a fine, rollicking time, a great conversation.  Yes, it was primarily about sports, but Uncle R is here from Finland, doesn't get to speak of American sports very often.  And almost everyone at that table was both interested in, and happy to contribute to the conversation about sports.  But suddenly, Thyrza loudly cut in. "Now I'm going to tell you about our world, Spring Creek (their retirement complex), and you're going to be interested." 

There was an instant silence around the table.  She certainly did tell us, and we certainly did listen, but it wasn't communal.  It was a lecture.  Something closed up in everyone at her command, and that was sad to me.  I know it isn't what she meant.  She simply wanted to be heard, cared about.  But commands don't do the job very well, you know?

I think that I must learn that Thyrza and Grampie (though he loves, loves, loves talking sports) must now be treated like the least in our company.  Like the youngest at the table, whom we must be careful to include.  It was natural with my children, but I must be retrained to make sure the conversation, indeed, the very language, includes them.

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