Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tutorial in the Tempest

I am a person who uses too many words. During my day-to-day, whether one was to calculate simply those I speak, those I write or the combination of the two, I admittedly use more than my fair share. Somewhere, someplace there is a mute who serves as my celestial oratorical companion. Between Yang and me, a noise pollution equilibrium is achieved.

Yesterday afternoon - because there is nothing quite like an anonymous hurricane (the combination of torrential rain and howling wind was what it was regardless of whether anyone gave it a name) to inspire a trip to the Island of Staten and because there are two people I trust implicitly to drive in horrendous weather; one of whom is me and the other is nobody but me - I drove Margaret and her crack crew of senior traveling companions (Joe, his older brother Andy and Marie) to Staten Island for dinner with Joe and Andy's other brother Sal and his family. Setting aside for a moment that the decision to invade an island during a hurricane explained why the Italians last mounted a successful military campaign where Caesar was an emperor and not a salad option, it turned out to be quite a wonderful afternoon and evening.

Between them, Joe, Sal and Andy have a total of close to one-quarter of a millennium. And while the three brothers remain incredibly close - each of the three of them from Andy (the trio's elder statesman who will be 92 in June) to Joe (the bambino of the group at 75) has carved out his own very distinct path and lived a life that while echoing at least in part the life lived by each of his two brothers has nevertheless been solely and wholly his own. The three of them sat last night around the dining room table talking, eating, reminiscing, drinking wine, laughing and simply enjoying the company of one another for several hours.

It is perhaps because it is a setting that I encounter so infrequently that when I do, I respond to it in a way that is historically inconsistent with my day-to-day. I say little, preferring instead to take the role of the sponge in an effort to soak up all that is being said around me. And not surprisingly, on an occasion as rare as this one, when I shut up long enough to not simply hear the voices of others but to actually listen to what those voices are saying, I fail not to learn a little something.

At one point during the conversation last night, Joe and Sal were talking about marriage and family and what enables a husband and wife to be successful is the willingness of each one to not only listen to the other but to adapt and change as needed in order to make full use of each other's strengths and to ensure the happiness of the family. The point made was that inflexibility is a bad trait to bring into any joint venture, such as the one that marriage most certainly is. Sal's illustration of the point was both practical and poetic, " What does a tree do when the wind blows? It bends with the breeze because if it fails to learn how to bend, then it breaks apart and it dies."

No need to say another word. Did I really just say that?


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