My mother, a hardscrabble Kansas ranch girl with little formal education, spoke in idioms, pithy historical sayings, many of which made no sense.
I was having a conversation with Nate, my son who is going to turn 21 soon, about meaning and life. He was curious about how we find meaning. Almost as if meaning is hidden somewhere, and our life’s work is to search and search for this thing that will bring us to a place of peace or understanding or, lord help us, happiness. Ah! There it is! Meaning! Finally!
It’s a curious thing to wake up in a city that’s quiet. Sure, it’s Saturday morning, but it happened on Friday, too. It could be that I’m used to the sounds of New York, which seems to be busy and loud at all hours of the day, and so I assume that all cities are noisy. San Francisco is quiet in the early morning.
I have long been a fan of musical words. An attempted writer myself, I look for those people who can put meaning into language that often goes beyond what she or he thought of to put down on paper. I have said before, I favor Mark Twain, who once wrote that he never knew what he was going to say until he began to write it.
I turn 53 this weekend, the same age at which my mother’s mother died of breast cancer. I have heard of people dreading this kind of thing: arriving at the age at which a parent or grandparent died. I don’t feel that kind of fear or doom so much as a kind of sorrow, that I never knew my grandmother. We have so many ways to detect, diagnose and treat breast cancer now that my mother and sister and I have been able to be vigilant, something I would imagine my grandmother wasn’t.
When I told my husband my idea for my latest Charlotte News effort, he said, “Just don’t write anything that will make me throw up.” I’m not offended; I totally get it. A column that searches for the meaning of life has serious potential for barfdom. So, before I send anything to Melissa, it first goes to Pete. He doesn’t hold back.
When Melissa approached me about writing a column for The Charlotte News, I asked what she needed. “The only need is to fill the paper with as much meaningful content as possible.” I’ve been rolling her words over in my mind for a couple of weeks now. It’s a nice image—filling something, anything, with meaningful content. And her request struck me as a metaphor for life.