by David Sisler

The tips of her fingers are twisted with arthritis, her knuckles are enlarged so that she cannot remove her rings. I commented on one particular ring and she said, "I have worn some of these for sixty years."

Then she paused and said, "We were married for 57 years. I lost him three years ago. He fought cancer hard, but it finally took him. I would not want him to suffer again like he did, but I would give anything to reach out and touch his hand."

I thought of my parents who were married slightly more than 50 years when Dad died, and of Mom's skinny fingers curled in death, tightly gripping the wedding band Dad had placed there 53 years earlier, never once removed. I smiled at the small woman standing in front of me, her cane hooked over her arm. I smiled because no words would come. It was the best I could do.

I think she sensed my memories, and our two sets combined were almost overpowering. Her eyes twinkled as she said, "We had a good marriage. It was not ideal, but we worked hard. Adam and Eve had an ideal marriage, you know?"

"How so?" I asked, walking into her trap.

"Well," she said, "he did not have to listen to her talking about all of the men she could have married, and she did not have to listen to him telling her how good his mother's cooking was."

Words are wise men's counters they do but reckon by them (Thomas Hobbes, The Leviathan).

In his new book State of a Union, author Jerry Oppenheimer writes that Hillary Clinton called Paul Fray, the manager of her husband's failed 1974 congressional campaign, "a Jew bastard." Dennis Prager, a national radio show host, while accepting that Mrs. Clinton made the statement, comments that "Hillary isn't an anti-Semite." Prager said, "It is highly misleading to probe private comments for evidence of anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and sexism." I guess standards are different for First Ladies than for relief pitchers.

Have I not written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth?" (Proverbs 22:20-21).

Robert Knight, a member of the Family Research Council, was a guest on CBS's "The Early Show" the morning after the Supreme Court announced its decision that the Boy Scouts of America could exclude homosexual leaders from their ranks. Host Bryant Gumbel showed his disdain for Knight and his position on the sensitive issue throughout the interview. At the end of the session, thinking his microphone was turned off, Gumbel referred to Knight as "a f***ing idiot."

A spokesman for CBS said that Gumbel's alleged comment was "not audible, and had no relevance to the program." A Wall Street Journal editorial countered that "though the audio tapered off at the end, there was no mistaking the words."

CBS, it seems, approves of Mr. Gumbel's intolerance and bigotry, because almost two months after the fact, they have failed, in any fashion, to respond to critics.

Look out how you use proud words. When you let proud words go, it is not easy to call them back. They wear long boots, hard boots (Carl Sandburg, Primer Lesson).

Not long after the Yankee Clipper died, the name of North Beach Playground (where the DiMaggio brothers played when they were boys) was changed to Joe DiMaggio North Beach Playground. Almost immediately Morris Engelberg, the attorney for DiMaggio's estate, called the move "both morally and legally wrong" and filed a complaint for unspecified damages.

"I promised Joe ... on his deathbed, to protect his name at whatever sacrifice to myself," Engelberg said.

Mr. Engelberg seemed to forget that promise when he granted an interview to Vanity Fair. One of the low points of the story is Engelberg's revelation of DiMaggio's last words: "I'll finally get to see Marilyn."

Engelberg justified the tasteless revelation, saying he wanted to be sure that a new generation of baseball fans remembered DiMaggio. His $2 million book deal evidently had nothing to do with it.

'Tis well said again, And 'tis a kind of good deed to say well: And yet words are no deeds (William Shakespeare, King Henry VIII, Act 3, Sc. 2).

The late Dr. Howard Lewis Briggs, head of the Department of History, Frostburg State College frequently told his classes, "When you point one finger at someone, you are pointing three back at yourself."

I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Jesus of Nazareth, Matthew's Gospel, Chapter 12, Verses 35-37).


Published in The Augusta Chronicle 8/19/2000

Copyright 2000 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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