Posts Tagged ‘listening’

“Of course, my dear.”  As he presented his hands to me – resting them on a book, waving them in the air, etc – he described the work he’d done with those hands over the years.  Keith is his name and he was subbing for a security guard at a local church.  We’d only known each other for less than an hour though when he first saw me his first words were, “Have we met before?”  While I’m horrible with names I’m pretty good with faces and his aged face did not look familiar.  But he did feel awfully comfortable to be around.  And so after hearing him speak for a few minutes with his beautifully accented voice I said, “Sir, when were you born?”  The people around me may have been appalled I asked that question, but he looked at me and laughed.  “1933, my dear.”  Then he took out his I.D. card with his birth date to prove it.

keith hands

For the short while that we were together he described growing up in Barbados,  then moving to England as a young man where he worked for Rover and his various adventures as a stellar mechanic.  He described his first wife and her untimely death that left him with three young children under the age of 10.  He made a decision to focus on the children and not remarry until they were grown.  And when they were grown he did remarry.  There was no question asked that did not produce beautiful, sometimes heartwrenching, stories of family, friends and work. I finally said, “Sir, you should record these stories.”  He chuckled and said, “I’ve lived these experiences.  Why do I need to record them?”

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We spoke by phone.  I sat in my kitchen in Somerville, MA while my younger brother sat outside his home in Lynchburg, VA.  After I had described my latest walk by the water and what I might write about, he said, “Mmmhmm.  I think you should write some more about porches.”


“Yes.  About what it’s like to sit on the porch steps at night, in the quiet and in the cool, with fireflies in the distance.  They look like stars.”

I imagined him sitting on his little back porch.  I thought about the seeds I had sent him and his family.  “Next year, I am sending you night blooming flowers.”

“That’s fine,” he said, and then he added, “And you should write about wearing glasses, how we wear them to see clearly, these wire frames that are not heavy but somehow you feel their weight all the time, and if you have long eyelashes you’re constantly batting them against the lenses.  Yeah, there’s always contacts … but somehow when you wear glasses and then you sit and you take them off … you can’t see as clearly and yet there is a certain sense of freedom.  A weight has been removed.  Though your view is a bit blurry somehow you can see with greater clarity the beauty all around.”

“I gave you a blank notebook.  Why don’t you write these things?” I say.

“Because you’re the writer,” he said.

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