The Details In Dictionaries

Do you have memories of when you were a kid? Almost all of the memories of my childhood I cherish because of their value and life long lessons that they left me with. I grew up in a time and place where it was almost surreal in the things that were lived….experienced as though they were drinking deep of the most nutritious stew of life you could imagine. I digress.

Grandma was visiting our house for supper one night and it was a fairly regular/normal visit as far as I can remember. It was more common for us to visit Grandmas house than it was for her to come and visit our house, so there was an atmosphere of some excitement and enthusiasm. Grandma was a character. It seemed to me that everyone in my hometown, and maybe many members of my own family were caricatures. You know the pictures where the most obvious aspect of a person’s physical being is exaggerated for the purpose of drawing an unmistakable picture that everyone recognizes who is being portrayed. Caricatures aren’t just of the physical attributes. In my hometown, everyone had character traits that were larger than life. The stories of the people I was surrounded with as a kid could go on. Not now though. My grandma was no different. Grandma had some unmistakeable traits that you could expect every time you met her and visited with her. Not physical so much, although 4 foot something and bow legged sort of make you stand out in their own way. It was her other personal traits and habits that were very much larger than life and if those things could have been drawn like a typical caricature, they would have been massive.

For instance, when Grandma had heard enough of what you were saying and was ready to answer or speak at you (notice that’s not converse with you), she would simply exclaim “huh” out loud as though she didn’t hear what you just said and then proceed to answer you with her very strong ideas of how the world worked. Most of the time it was annoying, but it usually ended up entertaining in some way or other. The most raucous family visit with Grandma was one time when a discussion came up about the small pins that hold gears and pulleys in place on machinery. Now some of you who are familiar know and are already referring to them as COTTER pins. But for my non mechanically inclined grandmother, they were “CUTTER” pins. It might not sound like a big deal, only one letter difference in the spelling and a little difference in how it is pronounced, but the discussion quickly changed to the correct way to say the word and what the actual word was, which revealed that Grandma adamantly believed that it was pronounced and spelled as “cutter”. She was so willing to stand by her version of the word that we actually pulled out the huge dictionary we had as a part of the Encyclopedia set our family owned (did your family get hit up by that traveling salesman?) and we were able to look up the word. I still remember to this day the page being opened to cotter pin with the exact picture of the exact item we were discussing right there in bold print.

The story doesn’t end there. After we had opened up the dictionary in our grammar intervention, and laid it out on the kitchen table for her total wrongness to be exposed, Grandma in typical fashion took only a few seconds to look over the picture and review the definition written there. Her response?

“What kind of dictionary is that?” – Rosie Harsch

Our family still uses that line amongst ourselves on occasion to not only make a point to others in our family or others, but to remember the tenacious nature of my fearless little Grandma. I often remember this incident when I’m considering digging in my heals on something I believe. It’s good to remember that some things are worth fighting for, some things are really best kept to yourself if you don’t have enough information or if you don’t have the experience to go to the mat on an issue, and other issues are just funny because they are so out there and really don’t have much impact on real life other than to make for a story that can be told for as long as someone remembers. And sometimes it truly is only about perception. There’s no where left to hide. It’s all in my head.

I had awesome opportunities to meet up with some old friends lately. They were friends who hadn’t seen me since before the stroke happened and so I’m finding out that many are nervous as to what they will experience when they first see me after the long time apart and not being sure how the stroke affected me. It’s actually a bit of a brain twister to think that friends are nervous to visit with me since this accident happened. There is a shared fear that all of humanity seems to have about injury and the injured. Even those who are really close and love us dearly seem to have to muster courage to interact with us after an injury. You who know me and have followed my quite public disclosure of how all of this has affected me have a better idea of what I may be like upon first encounter. I am very grateful that you take that much interest in my little old life, by the way. A close friend who I hadn’t seen for a while came by and shared a meal the other day. As he left he told me that if he didn’t know what he had been told about my stroke, he kind of wouldn’t be able to tell that I had even had the stroke.

The same thing happened last night with people who are not close friends, just acquaintances. Conversation was streaming along fine when they asked how business was and I had to answer by asking if they knew that I was recovering from a stroke so that what I was about to tell them would make more sense. Their answer was that they had heard about the stroke but they really couldn’t tell that anything may be different. It’s clear that the truth can be hidden sometimes, or at least not exactly evident. Truly, I don’t blame anyone for believing something that they really don’t know. If I were ashamed or nervous about strangers treating me differently, I can be comforted to know that in large part I can go about my day almost totally incognito as a “hidden” stroke survivor who is still in recovery. Friends being nervous is another thing to think about, but thankfully friends are willing to get over any anxiety to discover first hand what the real situation is.

It seems that more and more this life is becoming something like my Grandma would make of the world. She was clinging to things that weren’t exactly true for no real good reason other than to be right, but it was so important to her that she was even willing to question a dictionary that clearly countered what she believed. As it turns out, my outward appearance and function may be hiding some of the more hidden facts that only I know for sure (well, myself and my doctor who must sometimes roll his inside eyes at me as I whine about my aches and pains and struggles, although he is too nice to say). In this way, much of what people are left to know about me is inaccurate and probably needs correcting in order to be “truth”. Sometimes what is inaccurate needs to be corrected, sometimes it can be left alone and just allowed to exist as an inaccuracy, and other times it makes for a wild a raucous table discussion that will be remembered for many many years. Working through truth is a tricky thing sometimes.

One thing I cannot change my mind about, and will refuse and resist any attempts to do so is hope. Hope is a part of every day. It doesn’t matter what comes along in life to push back against you, do not lose hope. Hope is that which keeps us going. Don’t lose hope. Hope is something that no one should ever be allowed to change your mind on. I don’t care what kind of dictionary it is. Be hopeful my friends.

Thanks for letting me ramble friends.

 

Author: dharsch

Seeking pilgrm, Husband to a most true companion, father to 5, and user of opportunities.

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