LETTING GO

Hydrangea
I don’t let other people in very easily. It takes a long time or extraordinary circumstances for me to open my self to others. I have never been the kind of person who has many friends at any given time, but the ones I do have I hold fiercely to my heart. I have been so blessed to have so many good people come into my life over the years.

I had a difficult mother. She chose to dictate who could and couldn’t be my friend all throughout my growing up years. She arbitrarily decided to end my connection to others based on some unwritten and unexplained code that had, occasionally, devastating effect on me.

She forbid a friend who lived across the street from me from ever setting foot in our house again after a supposed accident in the house (a typewriter and a small wheeled table it was on fell over). Coincidentally, this was also the day our family dog nipped my friend from behind when we were outside swinging on my swing set.

I was with my friend all that fateful day and we never even went in the room where the typewriter was. I suspected even then it was probably my friend’s mother’s response to the dog bite that pissed my mother off. The consequence for me, however, was that two other families on the street refused to speak to me and I was no longer welcome among the tribe of children who had been my companions.

“You can’t just come over here and play if we’re not welcome at your house anymore,” my friend’s sibling announced when I rang her doorbell shortly after my mother’s edict. She shut the door in my face.

It was only after I got older that I tried to defy these edicts and remain friends with whomever my mother was on the warpath against, (and there was always someone), especially boyfriends. I think her iron will to break a bond actually bound me that much more strongly to my friends…a couple of whom I look back now and think it really might have been to my benefit to let go.

I tell you this to paint a background of possibility as to why friendship is sometimes a difficult and risky business for me. I have to remind myself that there is no one standing over me waiting to slash the bonds I have with another, now that my mother is dead and my ex-husband lives his own life, except me. Not every friendship is meant to last forever. We evolve over time, and sometimes the ties that bind simply unravel or become less important, so we move on. Still, it is never easy to watch that happen, especially when the bond is strong.

Now I am facing a giant change. A friend and a mentor is moving away. She came into my life as a spiritual guide when my life felt chaotic and desperate, shortly after my divorce. She was reliable and supportive and kind. She was trustworthy and had good boundaries. Gradually we became friends. The wary inner child allowed the adult to bond.

And now, as happens so often in our transient society, my friend and her husband are returning home. She knew when they moved here they wouldn’t stay forever. Colorado, a land of cold and snow and mountains, is nothing like sunny California. They went back to find where they might want to live earlier this summer. They found a city. Their home here sold almost immediately. Their realtor found something there instantly, too. Their moving date looms only a couple of weeks away.

I am so happy for her. I know it is a great step into another life. I thought it really was okay until I got an email inviting me to a “say goodbye” party. Goodbye is a word I hate. I haven’t wanted to face that part at all.

“You know you need to find another mentor, Chris,” she’s said a few times now. “Have you asked someone yet?”

No, I haven’t. I’ve thought of a couple of people I might ask, but they aren’t my friend. There is no one to fill her shoes. It’s not like I can’t call or write or keep in contact with her, but the relationship will be different. It might even end. It’s that part I don’t want to think about.

There is both blessing and irony in my work with her. She helped me develop a closer relationship with a Higher Power, whom I choose to call God. My life has been immeasurably enriched through prayer and meditation. I have learned I can turn to my Higher Power with any problem. In order to do that, however, I have to let go. I can tell God my troubles, but then I have to leave it in His hands. It’s not that I don’t eventually get answers, I do. I just don’t always like the answers.

“Whenever there is change in your life, Chris, you are being prepared for something new to come in,” my friend said a few days ago. Yes, I know. I’ve lived long enough to realize that sometimes the “something new” that comes in is quite wonderful.

In the meantime, though, there is that gap. I must say “Goodbye.” Sometimes all I see is the loss.

I would not have been a very good student or a friend for that matter, if that was all I focus on now. She helped me let go of the walls I had pulled tight around me after the pain of divorce. She helped me open my heart again and to “clean out the pipe” that is my connection to my Higher Power. “That’s our job, you know,” she’s said a hundred times. And I have cleaned out that pipe. Just sometimes I’m tempted to stuff it back up.

So my prayer for her is that her dreams for her new life all come true. That she find meaning and friendship in her new hometown, and her transition be filled with ease and Grace. I especially hope she knows what a gift she has been in my life. This is the part I have to leave to my Higher Power. I have to trust that all will be well for both of us.

I have to “Let Go and Let God.”

ORDINARY MORTAL

IMG_0071
I sold real estate for a brief time near the beginning of my working life. I worked for a broker who was smart, shrewd, and a very savvy business-woman. She had scratched her way up in the world from humble beginnings when her family fled Italy and the rise of Mussolini to start a new life in this country. By the time I knew her, she had accumulated a great deal of wealth, yet still lived a comparatively simple life.

She was at best a difficult personality with whom to engage. I came to work for her when interest rates were 13-14%. Needless to say I didn’t have a great deal of monetary success in the short time I worked with her. I did, however, learn an awful lot about residential real estate and how to sell it. I also learned that underneath that tough exterior beat a compassionate heart. She told me one day with great pride that her niece was going to go to medical school, and that she was going to pay her way.

My mother-in-law had worked for this broker, Ann, for many years, and was the one who introduced me to her. Shortly after I began to work for Ann, my mother-in-law had a massive stroke.

Grace was a warm, sweet lady, though she had retired by then due to failing eyesight. Real estate was a common bond between us, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have gotten to know my mother-in-law better because of it. It was a shock to see this formerly active and gentle-spirited woman lying so still on the gurney in the emergency room. It was touch-and-go for many days whether Grace would survive or not.

The doctor asked if a family member could come each day and feed Grace her lunch. She needed to eat but could not feed herself. The nursing staff did not have the time to spend with Grace helping her eat. My husband, her only child, worked in the city while I worked much closer to her hospital. My father-in-law was not up to this task, so I volunteered. It was a long, arduous process to get her to eat even a portion of her meal, but I did the best I could.

Grace did survive, but as a shadow of her former self, and was sent to a nearby nursing home. A few of the other women in the real estate office who had worked with Grace went to visit her, but Ann never did.

I judged Ann rather harshly for this. I thought the least she could do, since Grace had not only worked for her but felt she was her friend, was to go see her once. I was sure the other women who had visited told Ann of the shocking change in her, now wheelchair bound with the whole left side of her body paralyzed. Somehow Grace could still recognize people and was able to speak coherently if you listened carefully. I never said a thing, though my judgment must have shown. If I could do it, certainly Ann could, too, I thought.

“I want to remember Grace as she was, Chrisy,” Ann said to me one day when we were alone in the office. “I don’t want to see her as she is now.” Still, I looked down from my high horse.

It was only after I looked at my own behavior in a similar situation I had faced a few years earlier, that I could understand where Ann was coming from. My mother’s dear friend, Wendy, had passed away from throat cancer after a long struggle. I thought of Wendy as a second mother and I loved her dearly. My mother spent a lot of time visiting Wendy, and though she never asked me to go with her, I never asked to go along, either. I had no idea how to deal with terminal illness and didn’t want to start with her. To this day I sometimes feel guilty for my choice, for I know Wendy cared for me as much as I did for her.

I am many decades older now, and have faced the long and protracted deaths of several family members. It doesn’t take away the difficulty of dealing with these situations, but it does take away the fear. Until very recently, I spent time as a Hospice volunteer, visiting people who were very close to the end of their lives. I even joined an “Eleventh Hour” program as part of Hospice. For that you volunteer to sit with people who are actively dying when family members need a break, or when staff can’t be with a person even if they are in a hospice hospital. Twice the person I was with actually died.

I had a friend who had been a nurse, who snorted with derision when I told her I was training for Hospice. “Oh you’ll never be able to do that,” she said. Insulted, I never did understand where she was coming from. I knew it would be a challenge, but I thought I was up to it. It turns out, I was.

Other friends remarked that they would never be able to do what I was doing. They seemed to find my choice admirable, or brave, or too depressing to do themselves. I just thought this was a personally satisfying way to give my time. I wanted to make a difference. Yes, sometimes it was difficult. Once I had to decline a patient because he was a young man the same age as my son. I was smart enough to realize that one would be too close to home for me to be helpful.

I’ve come to realize that in our culture at this time, death is something to be feared. Illness is something to be feared. We no longer live in multi-generational homes, and most of us no longer even live close to older family members who reach the end point in their lives where death sometimes takes a long time. It is not something we routinely see or experience as a passage, part of all of our life experience.

So in its mystery it also becomes the kind of challenge we can not face willingly. Like me, we refuse to be part of a person’s life when they might most need us. Like Ann, we choose not to deal with the heart-wrenching transformations that sometimes precede a person’s passing.

I know I am not one of the ones who could make Hospice work my living. As a volunteer I had a choice to say yes or no to a particular opportunity to be of help. I remember the lovely, competent nurse who assisted my brother at the end of his life. I so admired her skill and gentle soul. I don’t think I could do that, deal with death all day every day. Those people are saints.

As much as I might like to be different, I am only an ordinary mortal.

PEACE AND QUIET

Eagle Nest
I grew up, and lived most of my adult life, in a wealthy “bedroom community” suburb of New York City. This was a place of old and stately homes; beautiful Victorians and Colonial style houses built in the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1950’s there was another spate of building as some of the larger lots were broken up and sold to accommodate smaller, newer, less grand but still nice houses. It was an easy commute by train to the heart of Manhattan and the financial and business centers of the world.

I had little understanding or appreciation of some of the legal restrictions required of those who lived there until my husband and I had our own tiny house in the town. We lived across the street from a single man who kept his property well, but was something of a character. Unlike many of his neighbors who had lived there for decades, I knew little of his past and thus was one of the few people who bothered to make an effort to talk to him, despite his reputation as a recluse of sorts.

One summer he decided to take advantage of the early morning light and mow his lawn before going off to work. It was light, alright, but it was 6:00am when he decided to fire up his very noisy, though thorough, mower. The first time this happened I didn’t think much of it as I had young kids who woke with the light anyway. The second time I did find it annoying. The third time I actually thought about going out and telling him he ought to consider mowing at a more reasonable time for making that half hour of racket.

Someone else must have had the same idea, for as I listened to the mower I heard it stop abruptly in the middle of mowing, far less time than he usually spent to do his lawn. I looked out the window and saw a police car stopped in front of his house. A policeman and my neighbor were engaged in conversation. The mower went back in the garage, and the policeman drove away. I later found out that there was a noise ordinance in the town. You had to wait until 8:00am to make such untoward noise or you would be subject to a fine. The man never mowed his lawn so early again.

I live in a tiny little town in northern Colorado now. I live in a new subdivision, subject to the noise of all kinds of construction machines as new houses are packed into the available little lots as the housing economy recovers. The rumble of dump trucks, cement mixers, excavators and front loaders permeates the air on nice days between the snow storms. With few exceptions, this has rarely bothered me.

This morning, however, was not the case. I normally get up early because I like to spend time in the quiet as dawn begins to sit in my healing room and meditate. I had neglected to set my alarm and thus was still in bed as the gray twilight peeked around the edges of my window. I felt more than heard the deep rumble shaking my house. “What the hell is the matter with my furnace?” I thought as I started awake. Another second or two passed and I realized it wasn’t my furnace.

I hastily dressed and raised the shade so I could see outside. A few feet off my back fence a huge truck, the kind that have the long arms that unfold to pump cement through a hose into foundations, sat humming, its red trailer lights on in the dark. A rumble and grind continued as a cement mixer backed up to the pumper, its lights on, too. It was 6:10am. They were coming to pour the floor of the basement of the house going in catty-corner to my lot. The vibration continued as they waited for it to get light enough to pour the cement.

“Really?” I thought. “What time did these guys have to start their day to come pouring cement in a residential neighborhood before first light?”

It bothered me a lot more than listening to a lawnmower on a summer morning. I thought of firing off a letter to the editor of the local paper. I thought about going to the town hall to register a complaint. I like to let my opinion about things like this be known. I like the sovereignty of my personal space undisturbed. I am much older now, and oh so much less flexible than that long-ago young mother. Besides, it’s winter. According to me they shouldn’t be building now, anyway.

I also know how futile my complaint will be. I tried once before to register a complaint at town hall. The house next door is unlike the others in the neighborhood. It’s a tiny little house built on a cement slab without a basement at all. A huge machine came one day to tamp the ground into rock-like solidity so the slab wouldn’t shift as I was typing in the basement bedroom that was my writing space. The ground shook with each resounding stamp of the iron rectangle on the arm of the machine. I could see the vibration in the wall next to me. I imagined a crack appearing somewhere and how thrilled I would be.

I hightailed it to town hall to complain. That’s all I wanted, was to complain. I was blown off and told to come back in an hour when someone would be back from lunch. It wasn’t lunchtime, but I did come back in an hour even though I suspected they hoped I wouldn’t.

I was met with a resolute little woman, a member of the town board, who was anything but sympathetic. She didn’t introduce herself or ask me my name, but I knew who she was. She didn’t even invite me into her office to speak, but chose instead to stand in the middle of the open space among the various secretaries with her hands on her hips as I spoke. She didn’t invite me to sit in one of the chairs nearby, either, these simple courtesies even an oaf should realize would at least partially defuse a disgruntled homeowner.

I know how to be polite. I didn’t raise my voice, or say anything untoward. I told her my story. I asked if there was any place at all to register a complaint. I asked when she didn’t respond if my only alternative was to write the town paper.

“You should have known when you bought your house that there would be construction noise in your area,” she snorted. “Besides, the worst that’s ever happened is a picture fell off the wall in a house next to one of those machines.”

“So I’m not the only one who has ever complained,” I thought.

I didn’t say any of the things that went through my mind, the least of which was to chastise her for her perceived lack of civility as a member of the town board. “You really shouldn’t piss off a writer,” I thought. “Especially an ex-New Yorker.”

Ultimately, other than complain to a couple of my neighbors, only one of whom owned the house in which they lived at the time, I did nothing. I could feel the futility of continuing any conversation with this person. It wasn’t my place to give this woman a lesson in etiquette, much less become irate at her behavior. I was proud of myself for not “picking up the rope,” as they say.

I found out later, as a partial explanation of her behavior, perhaps, that she is the mother of the guy who built the house next door.

So this morning I stood on my little patio, coffee cup in hand, and watched the floor being poured in the house behind me. Eventually the light got strong enough to illuminate what they were doing and I found it entertaining to stand there and watch for a little while.

Three truckloads of cement later and they were done. The arm of the cement pouring machine folded up neatly. It was exactly 8:00am when the last truck drove away. So much for country life.

NEIGHBORHOOD GROUCH

Sentry Post
A splendid sunrise splashed itself in grays and magenta across the sky this morning as I stood with a cup of coffee in hand and watched from the warmth of my kitchen. The clouds are mostly broken up now and the day has begun. I cracked open my kitchen window to the rattle of a bulldozer warming up in the still-frigid air behind my house.

It’s supposed to climb into the high fifties today, but at the moment there is frost all over the windows of the bulldozer’s cab. I can’t see the operator since he isn’t in the cab, though the door is open a crack. A huge pile of dirt obscures my view of anything on the other side of the mound.

Last night my little dog kept running out the dog door in the kitchen to bark anxiously into the darkness despite my calling him inside repeatedly. I finally went out to see what he was so excited about, only to hear the laughter and many voices of teenagers joyfully running up and down and across the newly arrived mountain of excavated earth obscuring the lot behind mine.

“Wonderful,” I thought. “Each moment of change, each arrival of lumber or new machinery, or new workmen, will be greeted with the yapping of a 17 pound distressed animal loudly announcing his disapproval.”

My dog still occasionally puffs himself up and snaps through the fence at the dog next door. “I was here first,” he seems to say. I don’t spend my days charging though a dog door and yapping or snapping, but I can relate.

I watched the dim forms of teenagers run and jump and sometimes roll down the even darker earth. I caught myself thinking I should call the police. “What if one of them breaks a leg?” I thought.

Was I really worried that they might hurt themselves in the black night, or was it more likely I didn’t like their freedom and unself-conscious joy? I had to stop and consider.

“I’ve become my neighbor a few doors away, the guy on the corner,” I said to myself.

When I first bought my new house a few years ago, the corner house was already occupied. My son still lived with me at the time. He moved back and forth between his father’s house and mine. One day the man who lives on the corner stopped me as I walked by with my dogs.

At the time my son had a stereo system in his car that was worth more than the vehicle itself. It was his pride and joy. I could hear him returning home from two blocks away. So, apparently, could my neighbor.

“I had a talk with your son the other day,” he said. “I asked him to turn down his stereo when he turns onto the street to go home.”

I bit my tongue as the urge to tell him to mind his own business and leave my son alone raced through my mind. If he really had a problem, I thought I’d ask him if he wanted to stand in my bedroom, which is right behind the garage, and listen to the noise echo as my son pulled in for the night. Now that was something to complain about. Instead I kept my mouth shut.

“I wanted to compliment you on what a nice kid he is. He was very polite. He doesn’t play his music nearly so loud anymore.”

We stood and chatted a bit more before I walked on with the dogs. The guy must have said what he said in a nice way. My son is polite, but he also comes from a long line of hotheads. He could easily have blown the man off.

Thus I chastised myself as I thought of calling the police simply because a bunch of happy teens was playing on a pile of dirt not fifty feet from me. It wasn’t even my yard. I remembered how I used to hate busybodies who ruined my good time when I was simply being a kid. I watched the raucous activity for another minute or two and went inside.

“If someone starts screaming because they got hurt, there’s no way I’m not going to hear it,” I admitted.

“Then I can call the police.”

EXCAVATOR BLUES

IMG_0270
The ceaseless moan of an excavator grinds through my house this morning as the foundation for a new house is going in catty-corner to my lot. I knew this day would come, when the lots behind me would finally fill with new houses, but it brings me no joy. I have lived in my house six years now, and due to the economic crash in the housing market I have had the luxury of pretending my tiny lot was much bigger. Not only will a new house be thirty feet off my patio, but my view of the horizon and the rising sun and moon will probably soon disappear, also.

I had naively hoped that this day might wait until spring and the end of winter, but my eyes and ears tell me otherwise. Although it’s been obnoxiously cold, I suspect the ground does not freeze quite as hard and as deeply as it might in more humid climes. That is the secret of living in the “front range” of Colorado.

The wind blows, the snow falls, but often it’s in the forties or fifties for days at a time. The sun, due to the altitude, is intense and warm even in January. Snow doesn’t move in in December and stay until March as it used to in New York. In upstate New York, Buffalo to be exact, it starts snowing in September and sometimes packs it in until May.

That means in Colorado that the actual number of days of a big snow storm moving in, and its last traces of passing finally melting, is quite short. Maybe a week or two. Thus the arrival of the big machines. The changes this may bring for me occur on many levels, some of them good.

I am not, however, one who welcomes change. I think perhaps the Universe is telling me my days of sanctuary and hiding in the peace of my three bedroom three bath ranch are ending. Simple decisions and choices begin with this actual space. Longer term choices mean I may have to find another home. Most important of all is the realization that in order to move I’ve got to move out into the world, too. I’ve put this off long enough, my heart tells me.

I can move my healing room downstairs into the big, sunny bedroom that sits vacant since my daughter moved out. It’s quiet down there, away from the groan of the machines and then the sounds of hammering and voices of new residents. Maybe my son or daughter could use the furniture if I don’t move it into the unfinished basement. I can at last move my easel and paints upstairs into a sunny room instead of listening to the roar of the furnace blower as it heats or cools as I try to paint by the basement window. I already have my laptop on my dining room table. Since I live alone already there is no one but my little dog to disturb me, except for the noise. The light is a good trade-off, but only sometimes.

So what am I to do? I haven’t sold my house before this because I bought my house five minutes before the housing market crashed. I might get close to what I paid for my sweet home, now, but there is a mortgage to pay off, and realtor and moving expenses. Could I find a house as nice as the one I live in now? Where is it I might want to live? Do I really need so much square footage? Is my world so small I couldn’t move ten or twenty miles away and keep my circle of friends, clients, and activities?

I’ve lived in exactly three houses in the twenty years Colorado has been home. Colorado is a huge state, but home has always been in a tiny dimension of it, despite three moves. My children are nearby. I have gone kicking and screaming into being an empty nester. Is it possible for me, for Mom, to move away? I don’t actually see my children that often, but it is reassuring to my heart and soul to know they are close. How far would I like to go?

I have a crazy idea brewing. I never went on a cross-country trip the way so many of my friends and contemporaries did when they finished college. Except for two very long and very far away trips decades apart, I’ve hardly moved around at all. I come from a gene pool that basically made it across the Atlantic, kissed the ground they landed on, and stayed put ever since.

What if I bought a small RV, something I could live in, and traveled around for a few months, or a year? Could I do that? Could I really just take my little dog and go anywhere? I’m no spring chicken anymore. Could I find someone to go with me? Would I want someone to go with me? I’ve spent six years alone now. I like who I have become.

I could go to an RV park and hang a sign outside my door, “Reiki sessions today,” it might say. Or “Drumming Circle at 5:00p.m.” Do I truly have the blood of an adventurer in my sphere of possibilities? Dare I find out?

I sit secure in my very own home and dream. All because a noisy machine showed up and started digging a big hole in the ground. Its brother machine, a bulldozer, is busy moving the newly dug earth into a big pile directly behind my fence.

Annoyance or gift?

Judging by the places my mind goes, I might have to say, “gift.”

There is a saying, “Bring the body and the mind will follow.” In my case it might be simpler than that. Move the stuff out of one room and into another. Sell or give away the things I don’t use. Let go of all the things I hold in my garage for others. Reassess.

Tomorrow is a new day.

My final words to myself? Get busy!

A GRATEFUL HEART

Angel on my wall
I was writing a thank-you note to a friend this morning when I realized that there are periods of time when my blind eyes so need to be opened. When I am very lucky, this happens softly, gently, and oh-so-sweetly. It always comes in the arms of Love. Today I know myself to be the luckiest of beings.

I have spent all of this holiday season in the darkness of focusing on that which I have lost; the people who are gone from my life, and the joyful past occasions which will never happen again. Let me tell you from experience that the only result of this kind of madness in thinking is I make myself both miserable, and blind to all the good that tries to brighten my life and heart in the present. It is especially the unexpected which reaches in and lights a spark in the dark place of feeling sorry for myself, but the joy of that is then I am finally able to look around and see all the beauty that comes in every other form, in every other moment, too.

I receive welcome and love, and yes, even presents. Concern and phone calls and time doing fun things, like gatherings and parties, meals shared, texts sent and received, even the touch of the warm sun as I step outside, chip away at that armor of black paint I put over my soul. It is not easy to acknowledge or admit that perhaps I am one of those people who might prefer the struggle of darkness, with its resultant loneliness and sorrow, than the sweet balm of another’s hug or warm voice embracing me. It is only when that façade of my thinking fractures that I realize my own folly.

Today, for me, I am so profoundly moved by the idea conveyed by the saying, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” That light, no matter how tiny, changes everything. I think I am safer in the darkness, perhaps, than to open to call of the light and the wonder of moving through the world differently. Please forgive me my ignorance. Thank you so much for your Love.

In this season of celebrating the birth of Jesus, “the Light of the World,” whether you are Christian or not, the presence of a moment of light paints a picture so freeing and glorious I am truly humbled.

Yesterday, Christmas day, I had the great joy and honor of cooking and serving and being with not only my own most precious children, but my daughter’s boyfriend and his siblings and young nephew. There was no one else remotely close to my age. No friend or family member from my generation. I could have used that to feel sorry for myself. Fortunately that was not the case.

My heart could feel such lightness as I thought about how time moves on and I get to move on, too. The youth and camaraderie of all those people made room for me, a relative stranger in their midst. My daughter and son generously shared their own time and love. This was not mere sentiment filling my home, but a sweet touch of that which is truly Divine. Even the closing minutes with the arrival of my son’s friend, come to take him away and give the others an excuse to leave, felt welcoming, not cold. Attitude is everything, I realized once again.

This morning I asked for the eyes to continue to see all that is given me in each day. To all my many friends, too numerous to name individually, know that today my being is filled with the light of your generosity, your caring, your acknowledgement of me in all my flaws and perfections alike, and most especially for the freedom to truly be me. To all my precious family members, past, present, and those to come, know that today I look forward to each moment.

Today I am blessed with a grateful heart.

LOGOPHILE

IMG_0246
I am someone who loves words. That’s what that word, “logophile,” means. I had to look it up, because unlike “bibliophile,” (someone who loves books), I knew there was a word for the term, but I’ve come across it so seldom it was far enough down in my vocabulary memory banks that I didn’t remember it until I saw it again.

I am the kind of reader who will stop reading and look up a word I don’t know, even if a book is peppered with them. I have a very deep vocabulary, so that’s not something that happens much anymore, but I remember when that wasn’t true.

I’ve always wanted to be able to understand what people were trying to communicate, especially when they thought I wouldn’t get it otherwise. I’m talking about being a little kid and listening to my parents talk about something. As many parents do, my mother thought she could communicate with my father in “Pig Latin,” and little Chrisy would be none the wiser. Well, that took me a heartbeat to figure out.

I was the kid who would interrupt a conversation and pick a word out of a sentence and ask, “What does such-and-such mean?” It didn’t matter to me who was speaking. It could be a teacher, or a scholar, or any ordinary person. It never occurred to me someone might think I was stupid for not knowing, or that I might be a pain in the butt for sticking my nose in where it didn’t belong. If the person was kind enough to respond, I would forever remember both what a word meant and how to pronounce it.

It took me a long time to realize I needed to keep my mouth shut when someone mispronounced a word in front of me, or used it incorrectly. This especially bothers me today around homonyms used incorrectly in written sentences. “They’re, there, their,” for instance, or even more commonly “your and you’re.” I’ve learned to edit mentally. If people don’t ask, they generally don’t want to know. They’re insulted or think I’m being a snot if I say something.

Oh well. I’m just a different soul. I do want to know. I think if I only speak one language, English, then I really ought to speak it well. Honestly, I’m not instantly judgmental, I mean to be helpful. I rarely come across that way, however.

I learned to love words early on. It was part of my learning to read. My mother swears I learned to read from seeing ads on TV, that newly invented medium that first appeared in my house as I was reaching consciousness at age three or four. That was a very long time ago…probably the late 1950’s. Maybe that’s partially true.

I swear I learned to read because I loved Warner Brother’s Road Runner cartoons and wanted to know what all those mysterious boxes of things Coyote mail-ordered to try to catch the Road Runner were before I figured it out when he used them. Things like hot-air balloons, or dynamite, or catapults. Honestly, I remember being frustrated NOT being able to read, and then thrilled when I could.

I hold my father partially responsible for that. He worked very long hours, six days a week when I was very young. Still, he wanted to spend a little time with me every day, so he read to me before I went to sleep. I might have grown up to be the travelling bard in medieval times, or maybe have been apprenticed to the tribal storyteller. My father was very patient with me. He would read the same story or book to me 50 times if that is what I wanted. I got to know the stories by heart, of course.

We had a long-standing joke. Sometimes he must have been tired, or sick to death of what I wanted to hear. He would skip a sentence, or a paragraph, or a page. I would just shake my head as he continued to read the abridged story. He would pause, look at me and say, “I skipped something, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you skipped the part where the crow drops the cheese,” I would respond.

Caught in the act, he would return to the sentence he last read before he skipped something and continue. He especially tried to abridge the things I loved to have him read as I got older. I had volumes of fairy tales by every imaginable author. Some of them were not only long, but long-winded. It didn’t matter to me; I still wanted to hear them from beginning to end. Every word.

Eventually I picked the books up myself. I knew the story well because I’d heard it a hundred times. I learned to struggle through and mostly read the story to myself. Meaningless jumbles of letters became words. To this day I am an avid bibliophile, and retain a taste for the fantastic.

My son, like so many other kids, had a hard time learning to read. To this day he hates reading, but he loved to listen. I read every single one of the Harry Potter books to him, skipping nothing. Do you know what it’s like to read an 800 page book out loud to someone? And not just one, but volume after volume? I even put myself to sleep in my chair sometimes.

Still, he’s heard a lot of great children’s and young adult books in his life. He, like me, sometimes liked to hear the same book over, and over, and over. My father must have been a saint, is all I can think.

My daughter, too, loved to be read to. I think I read to her until she was in 8th grade. I’d still be reading to them both if I had a choice. One night my daughter said to me, “Mom, you don’t have to read to me anymore, I can do it myself.” I was heartbroken. Still, I bought her tons of books. She’s as addicted to reading as I am.

Every once in a while across my lifetime I’ve run into someone who likes to read out loud, or be read to. I had a boyfriend in college who was like that. One of us would find a book both of us wanted to read, so we read it out loud to each other. If one or the other got tired of reading or didn’t want to wait to finish it, well then we’d just finish it ourselves. I thought that was fun.

Much to my dismay, my ex-husband is severely dyslexic. He detested reading. I got him to read a lot by figuring out the things he liked, like science fiction, and then introducing him to excellent books, kind of like I did with my kids. He devoured them, much to my joy. He was, however, useless as an oral reader. He hated being read to.

Oh well. He isn’t my husband anymore. Maybe someday I’ll be interested in finding another partner. That man is going to have to be a reader. He’s going to have to like to read out loud, or be read to. I can read poetry, or science, or magazine articles, it doesn’t matter what. I just like to share time that way. “Good luck,” you say, right?

To be honest, I think I’m going to have to wait for grandchildren. Hopefully that will happen before I’m dead. I’m not sure I can read out loud from the other side.