Some topics draw me in right away, there’s no hesitation, no staring at the lines on my page. Not so Kindness. If the topic were Demanding or Disappointment, would it pull me into its loops and swirls, take me down with it, down to the grit behind my elbow?
Ah, elbows and grit and the dirt. The scoop. OK, here’s the scoop. I was lying on my bed after picking up the girls in carpool. I was remembering how compassionate the little Me was, the Me as a girl. How I’d cry when Larry stepped on ants. He did it to make me cry. How I couldn’t bear the thought of an animal dying.
Wondering where it went, how I got so hard. I’m hard-edged, straight-spined. Get over it. Words to live by, to tell others who are in pain to live by. And not that any of it is that cut and dried. I’m not horribly hard, but there is a veneer covering my soft parts.
I wonder if it’s Mom’s ranching sensibilities. Realism. Turkeys get slaughtered. Wooley and Wally, who I named the summer I turned 12, were hauled off to be butchered, but I lay my 63-pound body on the plank the sheep were to walk to get into the trailer. Lay there like those environmentalists who chain themselves to trees. Uncle Pat came and grabbed me, I stayed in repose, folded almost in a back-bend over his arms.
I sobbed, NO, NO, NO, you can’t take my sheep! Grandpa laughed. He wasn’t the kind of gentle white-haired man in a cardigan who would sit me down by a fireplace and tell me about the cycles of life, the food chain, where the meat goes, where the wool goes, how it is in the world. My grandpa wore a cowboy hat and a jean jacket and was missing a fingertip on either hand, lost slaughtering cows. My grandpa would have said, Getouttathere, you’re in the way. He’d have been embarrassed maybe, maybe mad for making him so. Life, this was life, this wasn’t meanness or anything slightly unkind. It just was.
Can ranching culture reside in your DNA, sleep in there like the cancer gene or a propensity to get rheumatoid arthritis? Lie in wait until you hit the age your mother was when you realized she wasn’t all buttons and bows either?
I always wondered, back when I was a teenager, how she could have taken my tom cat, Tiny Roy, to the pound and then claimed all along that he’d run away. How could she have left me crying night after night, praying for Tiny Roy’s return, her knowing all along that he wasn’t coming back?
It’s not just animals. It’s a way of moving forward, getting on with life. What is it, I have to ask myself now. Unkindness? A mean gene? A sense of reality?
Maybe none of the above. Just a moment frozen, like any other.
-from Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – KINDNESS & POLITENESS