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May 24 2011

Article by Ruthsella Corasol

by Dr. Jeffrey Lant

I was scheduled to write quite a different thing today from this, but when the shutters blew in and snapped against the glass with cannot-be-denied insistence, making me at once startled and alert, I knew another force, call it Nature, call it Aeolus, Greek ruler of the winds; call it anything you care to… but certainly, a greater force than I was demanding, loudly too, my complete attention. I gave it.

The air was pregnant with liquidity; the rain had pelted in the night, the ground now etched with the evidence of freshets as they danced to the sea, happy for their journey, kissing the land to bring forth the luxuries of fruit and flowers; the necessities of grain and every nutrient.

Even the least observant could tell, there was something lush about the air and its caresses, somehow reminding one of some tropical destination so fetching on fly blown papers in travel agencies… a destination you save to visit then find deeply disappointing upon going, though you’d die than ever admit it. (And never to those who have hung upon your not quite honest tales.)

The air was thick, wet, heavy… not at all oppressive, completely comforting. You feel somehow even the most rigid task master ever conceived would (you are sure) pardon the venal sin of laying abed this day, such sloth spurring no guilt at all but pronounced self-satisfaction that you have lived to feel such a day as this, and at an early hour, too.

Freshet, you think well of yourself for remembering this word, so apt, moribund now, the careless work of generations wanting more and more communication, but killing the words that make it all possible.

Freshet. You were 16 or 17 the year freshet ceased to be a factoid unknown to you one minute and became instead the embodiment of good habits and certain success, bet on it.

Flash cards

Prestigious colleges were competitive then… but not as sharply so as now. Some sage counselor (perhaps even me) had recommended improving vocabulary (so very pertinent) by copying words from the dictionary and becoming a presence in constant motion and cogitation, thus

(flash card side 1) freshet, n.

(flash card side 2) rush of fresh water flowing into the sea.

New words added, new words mastered, and a wonderful way to torment parents and relations, one irritating but beyond punishment.

“Jeffrey, take out the garbage!”

But the-best-mother-in-the world quickly learned the inevitable response.

“Mom, I can’t now. I’m working on my flash cards.”

It was unanswerable… and one took pride in one’s skill, for developing another useful talent, sure to come in handy with the she-who-must-be-obeyed certain to make her inevitable appearance in due course.

My parents never captured and reduced this irksome citadel, though on one memorable day, things reached a Crisis… and in front of Dwight David Eisenshower, too, his high and mighty duties at an end, shedding his celebrity and sharing his elder statesman years as grand marshal of a vastly honored Tournament of Roses, one new year’s day.

Eisenhower brought his international renown and grandfatherly assurances. I brought my flash cards. The forces were nicely matched.

My father, a serving sailor in World War II, venerated Eisenhower (as who did not at that day’s splendid Rose Parade?) as the leader of freedom’s army, our bulwark for goodness, the American Way, and the values and virtues of the great heartland of the nation where “I like Ike” was not merely a motto but an irrefutable mantra.

My father had moved mountains to ensure that his family sat so close to the former president we could see, quite clearly too, every move he made; had we been lip readers not a single word he uttered would have gone unknown. Alas, we did not have that skill.

Soon, however, it was time to turn our attention from the casual conversation of a legend to the day’s truly important business, the football game. But I never thought that sport or any sport, no matter how agilely played, nearly as exciting as a single word of our word-blessed language… for a football player may move a ball… but a single word can move the world and the path of humanity.

Now as the teams kicked, ran, shouted, huddled, and caressed each other every now and again, I sat immersed in my flash cards, scarcely looking up. I think this day I brought the Latin flash cards. These were store bought, unlike the English language cards; I had several other sets for different subject areas, too. Eisenhower, the great magistrate of a great republic, surely would understand my priorities; preferring stern duty over mere recreation. Thus, I had no difficulty rationalizing my choice.

After all (though I didn’t know it then), Eisenhower himself had given up the great love of his life and the divorce from Mamie, because his friend and commander General George Marshall reminded him in no uncertain terms of where his duty lay and the heavy price the republic would pay losing him, as it would should he choose love. Perhaps the general was reminded of his chere amie that day. It might easily happen…

In any event, I soon became aware that my football crazed father was casting glances my way packed with aspersions and the promise of Serious Words, even a Lecture. I knew the harbinger’s signs…

And soon came the preliminary salvo, along these lines etched in memory:

“Jeffrey Ladd…!” The exasperated tone.

Sotto voce to the stranger sitting next to him, “my son the intellectual…” Eyes skyward, touch of theatrics.

And then, not right away perhaps but as sure as sun, “Jeffrey, I am NEVER going to take you to a football game again.”

And so he delivered the coup de grace… that made me grateful then, and laugh today; to be deprived for life of a thing both onerous and dull, the better to arrange my legions of words, to play the most interesting game of all, the one you play within the world without walls, your own head.

But while I exulted then, for I was free! Free! I little knew or comprehended the pain this gave my father or the fact he thought such sentence meaningful, when I did not. The sad fact is, getting my way through disappointing my father cut one avenue producing shared experiences… and I regret this now as only an adult of some wisdom and insight can… and hardly an adolescent since the dawn of creation is equipped to handle.

It all came pouring out early this morning at the moment when the night hangs on for dear life because it knows so well its time is nigh… and that this night is about to be gone forever, replaced by a new day, fresh-as-paint, not content to wait a moment; pushing the old aside without compunction or regret.

One strong breeze so laden with moisture you could wring it out like a towel; one rap of the shutters on the glass… and the freshets of memory run strong and true to the immemorial sea, never stopping, always replenishing. Let them run as they will… and be thankful.

About the Author

About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. He is also a historian and author of 18 best-selling business books. Republished with author’s permission by Ruthsella Corasol http://WorkingAtHome101.com.

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