Monday, April 29, 2013

Y -- Yakkity-Yak

Some people talk all the time. There are those who just like to hear themselves talk as though they find themselves the wittiest and most intelligent conversationalist of all times. Letting someone else
speak would be to ruin the conversation, unless, of course, the other person was saying something flattering.

Then there are those who keep talking because they are afraid of the silence. The empty spaces in conversation might lead to something terrifying like introspection into the areas where self-doubt and insecurity live.

My stepmother is one of those people who talk all of the time. At times it has become something of a source of amusement in the family

Several years ago we were loading into the RV to go on a family trip to a dude ranch in Wyoming. I was to travel along with my father and step-mother, as were my sister and her two daughters. My step-mother was bustling about making sure that everything was packed, including my father. She kept up a running commentary as she went.

One of my nieces finally leaned over to me, "We love Grandma, but she talks SO MUCH!" I stifled a laugh while my sister, horrified, quickly shushed her eldest. Oh, if her mother had overheard that!

Once the family had gathered at the ranch in Wyoming the subject came up again. This time my sister-in-law related a story of how my stepmother had been talking to her baby son. "Hi Collin. This is your Grandma talking, Collin!" Off to the side my father said, "Yeah, get used to it!"

It should come as no surprise that the rest of the family has always been fairly reticent in comparison. Perhaps because there was nothing left to say, or perhaps because there was no room to say it.

After years of consideration I have decided that she falls into the second of the two categories that I outlined. She has not had the easiest life and talking may help her keep from reflecting on the hard times too much. Giving in to a silence that might let the past in might be just too difficult to deal with. When my father passed away she had a hard time, not just because she had loved him so much, but because the person she was used to having around to talk to was no longer there.

She has since remarried to another man who is quiet and doesn't mind letting her talk as she needs to. She is blessed in that way.

On the other hand, I have always been fairly quiet. This is largely because I grew up being jumped on for speaking my mind or for "misunderstanding" conversations.

My mother used to tell this story of an early interaction between my father and me when I was about two years old:

A number of my father's friends were over at the house, possibly a Thursday evening since that was poker night, and Dad wanted to show me off by getting me to say my name.

"Who are you?" he asked me.

"I am me," I responded gravely. Little kids are so literal.

"No, no. Who are you?" he asked again.

"I am me," I said again.

We went around and around until he was angry, I was crying, and Mom had to come in from the kitchen to negotiate detente.

For some reason he never thought of asking the question in any other way, so he kept getting the same answer. The simple fix? What is your name. Two-year-olds are not known for getting subtext.

Such was our relationship until he passed away. Such was the sort of relationship I had with many people in my life. So I learned to shut up.

One of the early interactions with my step-family had me voicing my opinion that I didn't care for the works of Mark Twain (I still don't for the most part). Instantly all three of my step-brothers ganged up on me and one called me a Commie. Chaos ensued for several minutes until my stepmother stepped in and told them to back off because I wasn't used to having brothers.

Well, it was true that I wasn't used to having brothers, but I was used to having people jump down my throat for having an opinion. Never mind opening up a discussion of why I don't like Mark Twain -- just cut me off at the knees.

(For the record, I never cared for "boy stories" so Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn never spoke to me, not to mention being forced to read them. Nothing kills the enjoyment of reading like having to read what you don't wanting and then analyzing it to death for subtext the author never intended. I have since become acquainted with other works of Twain's that I quite enjoy.)

After a number of years of therapy and a Prozac prescription I am not quite as reticent as I used to be, except for when my step-mother is talking. After all, there has to be some balance in the universe.

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