It’s a matter of wait and see


I’ve decided to do a lot more cursing than has been my habit. It may be a turning point.

My father was against cursing, as he was against hats and T-shirts worn at the dinner table. If one attempted either bad words or disreputable clothing, he said, “This is not Tobacco Road.” It was a literary reference to the Erskine Caldwell novel of 1932 and the stage play that followed. For my father, the pronouncement was enough. He didn’t worry about the reaction.

As the two youngest of our kids stepped up from elementary school to high school, they learned a lot more than reading, writing, and the rest. They learned and became skilled at some pretty fruity expressions. We battled nightly. I took the high road, they took the road, these days, more heavily traveled.

One evening, as we cleared away the dishes and the remains of that meal’s high pitched, borderline lurid, debate, I tried a new tactic. Although I wasn’t very practiced at their use, I knew a lot of bad words, and I used every one, repeating lots of them over and over again, and very loudly. I didn’t direct the curses at anyone. I just let the ugliness flow.

They loved it. Fell on the floor laughing. It had absolutely no discernable effect on the quality of family discussions going forward, but my goal had been modest. It was merely to expose the cess and invite consideration. The conclusion? Well, time will tell. Perhaps it was a turning point, I speculated.

A long time ago, casting about to furnish a big house full of guest rooms, which were to be rented to carefree vacationers, I visited a dealer who worked out of the basement of his house. There were stacks of mattresses, but they had long since seen their most buoyant days.

No lumpies, the dealer promised, but I demurred.

The dealer said he had just one more for me to see, and he led the way up the stairs from cellar to first floor to second floor to master bedroom. He flung open the door to reveal a very attractive double bed.

He might have made a sale on the spot, except that the bed was occupied. His wife glared ferociously, and it was obvious that things were going to get hot.

When, a few years ago, we got a new bed for ourselves because our old one had a case of the lumpies, time passing had installed a new requirement. We had got the bed we were about to retire because it was extra, extra firm. It would be good for our backs, we were told. Now, it appears that theory was all wrong. We’d arrived at a turning point.

What you want now, we learned, was a squishy bed that is not at all lumpy, but which provides variable support for all of what have become the lumpy parts of us. We put the old bed upstairs to replace another old bed that came from my wife’s childhood bedroom.

The room we moved the heirloom bed to already had two old beds and couldn’t fit another. Then we thought we’d move one of the old beds down into the garage, and then shift the cat beds (there was only one cat left be then) from the garage into the garden shed, which would discomfit only the wasps, the mice, and the yellow jackets, and who cares about them.

I wondered whether the new bed was a milestone, a turning point. Maybe a portent. For a long time, as things happened, I let them. I never imagined they meant anything or marked some important moment, some life altering instant.

Recently, I’ve been on the lookout for instances like that. I had thought life was an antagonist you grappled with, and maybe you won. Maybe not. Now, I suspect it’s like a wave forming 100 yards from shore. If you recognize the implications, time things just right, and jump on it, you can have a great ride to shore.

What could the passing of the old bed and the arrival of the new one have possibly meant, or accomplished? Would we just have to wait and see?

Or how about this? One day, I discovered that our big aluminum mailbox at the end of the dirt road had been hammered flat by some twisted, rap rhyming, hell bent, born to be wild miscreant. I’m sure he was cursing like a stevedore as he swung his Louisville slugger.

Other boxes along the road were similarly abused, and some of the posts on which they had perched were leveled as well. The mailbox next to mine was beaten so badly that it was near death and had to lean against mine just to get through another day.

When I stopped for the mail that deflating day, I decided that I would try to revive my mailbox, so I spent a few minutes hugging, squeezing, and pounding it back into shape. The door doesn’t close right anymore, but at least the mail person can get the bills jammed in there.

That mailbox has stood there unmolested (except for the leaner) for years now. It has escaped attack while boxes to the left and right and from Beetlebung Corner to the Panhandle Road have been repeatedly creamed. What I want to know is, why mine then, why not mine now?

You may say, well, everyone’s mailbox gets trashed now and again. And beds wear out, so you get a new one. And kids learn bad language and practice it. It means nothing in the long run.

But I am not so sure. There may be subtle, important, and difficult to comprehend messages being delivered at each one of these many turning points.