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An Old Dog’s Tale: Wandering words come back around

By Wayne Downing

Published on August 28, 2018 3:48PM


You might not know this, but some people in this world believe that all the words we say drift off into space (after we’re done using them), and wander the earth until they finally go poof and disappear. I don’t know if that actually happens, but I think it does on a smaller scale. I mean, if I holler at you from across the room, my words last long enough to get to you.

Suppose something bigger is at hand. Suppose words last a long time, I mean, a really, really long time. Suppose the words someone used a month ago are still around somewhere. Maybe we don’t see the wind blowing the leaves on a tree, suppose the words “help me, somebody, Grandpa’s took my teeth again!” is what it really is, bouncing against the branches.

I like that idea, I like the fact that our words are even more important, simply because they last longer.

This probably sounds stupid. It’s not something we normally think about I’ll give you that, and maybe it’s nothing. We live our lives in our own normal way, and it saves us a lot of time not thinking about things that don’t really matter.

Is there something to this — we’re all adult enough to consider things we don’t normally understand, right? Suppose something really important wanders by. In my imagination I can see this all happen.

And when that begins, all sorts of things can occur.

I’m lying in bed, wide-awake, staring at the ceiling. Words start swirling around my head, most of them old, some of them famous (by somebody, somewhere). I can’t see the words but I can hear them:

“Four score…”

“Ask not…”

“It was the best of times…”

On and on it goes. I feel as if I am witnessing a living dictionary. (Sure, this is a dream but I don’t care.)

Then everything changes, as soon as I get a grip on things.

I lift my head from the pillow. I want to hear them better. “Wayne, this is your mother. You know I love you, dear. Give me a hug.”

“You’re spilling oil, son. Get a rag. It’s your first car.”

“I’m telling dad… Wait till your father gets home… No, your father might not be coming back. He’s very sick.”

I can’t control what I’m hearing. A lot of it I don’t like.

“You’re not cool if you don’t bleed … Don’t tell the teacher… Go on, kiss her, she won’t do anything. She likes it.”

I think I know what’s going on. I’ve gone from being a kid to a student to a teenager. I’m learning, I’m experiencing, I’m finding out about new things.

“Go on, Wayne, touch it. It won’t hurt.”

“Grab it, nobody’s watching.”

There was a time when I was flirting with trouble. This was one of those times.

“I love you, Wayne. Be good to me.”

That made a difference. I had found love, here I am, lying in bed and I like it. Things in my life started to make me feel worthwhile. People got themselves regular jobs. I wanted one. They bought houses, and I wanted that. I started helping people. I showed respect to my elders. Whatever was accepted as normal behavior was what I wanted. I stared at the ceiling and watched the days of my life move across from right to left.

“Hello daddy,” my woman said. (I was 22 years old.) “Layoff.” (Sadness.) Hurt (what am I gonna do?) “Death” Goodbye, Mama, goodbye, Daddy.”

For some reason I ran my fingers across my face. I felt the wrinkles. “Grownup” (Too hard.) “Escape” (Bowling, golf, sports, drinking.)

I looked over at my wife, she was soundly, blissfully sleeping. She was love without thought, love without words. I lay my arm across her chest and without waking she grabbed my hand and pulled it tight. All these words have brought me to this place.

The words disappeared. The room was safely dark.

“Caring and comfort — a place, a person, a feeling — to come home to.



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