I grew up with a father who didn't talk. My friends would ask if he ever said anything even after he'd just finished telling me something. They couldn't hear his low voice. But he didn't talk much. I talk a lot in comparison. And what I do, which is what he would have never done, is say pretty much of what I think. I don't keep my own secrets, if I can help it because secrets signify death to me.
The man I fell in love with twenty-minutes after I met him, and who I hoped I'd spend the rest of my life with, was sort of like a huge-five-year old who laughed at his own jokes. He had a very good time, generally...and he was not a listener. For a long while, many years, I was happy listening because I am, after all, a trained listener and I thoroughly enjoy that role. I love hearing stories, especially personal stories, and I also eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers.
But I sort of wanted to talk to him, not the 'what did you do today?' sort of things because I've never been able to do that. Either I find it too tedious or too sad because if you grew up never being asked what you did today, then it's not particularly easy to start telling that at fifty-six, the age I was when I met him.
But I did occasionally want to tell him a story about my past. For instance, I wanted to say how hard it had been to make a living, how difficult it was to get photography assignments, how I struggled and one illustration was about the time MS. Magazine hired me to photograph Betty Dobson who was teaching masturbation classes to women. The story would have gone on a while, maybe ten minutes, but as soon as I said the words 'masturbation classes,' he started laughing so hard and riffing about 'oh, my daughter, the masturbation teacher' and imagining the room in which the imaginary daughter would teach the imaginary classes (actually the room was bare with a rug that was black, white and gray, if I remember correctly, or maybe that was only in my photographs.) Anyway, he wasn't the least bit interested in the end of the story, but he had a great time laughing.
I had to teach him that a person normally puts the newspaper down when someone is talking to him, but I assume that he's forgotten that by now. Because he loves reading the morning paper. Or loved doing that. Since he's such a creature of habit, I think I'm safe in assuming that he still loves it.
He did appreciate the fact that I really took that on as an important facet of myself. And he learned enough to ask me if his sons had said anything at dinner that he should know about. He'd been present, sort-of, probably thinking up stories, what he wanted to say next. And he knew I was listening to the underneath of it all.
The great joy of being out at the racetrack is that people talk a lot about really interesting things in very fetching and colorful ways. Almost no one asks anything about me, and I don't mind that at all. I'm too busy. The last race is on Saturday. Horse trailers move in daily. People are leaving for Tampa, Ocala, the Meadowlands, Philly.
I'm going to have to really work hard to find anything as interesting to do as washing water buckets in the morning and writing down what I learn afterwards.