Back in January, Dani Fisher first reached out to me about writing a guest post for her blog, A Vapor in the Wind. It's been too long since I've written an honest-to-goodness guest post (in this stage of life I just try to keep the books dusted and the flowers fresh here at Literary Lane), and it was a treat to have the chance to write something for a group of people I don't yet know. I'm sharing a section of my article here in hopes it will whet your interest!
Dinner-time conversations are always interesting ones. We sit around the long wooden table that's scuffed and marked and dinged and has seen more flour spills and soup spills and milk spills than you can count, and in between the chatter, the high giggles, and the interruptions of "pass the rice, please," and a less patient "where's the butter?", we drop seeds with our words. Not all thoughts are brilliant ones — and when we're hungry, the majority are far from it — but every once in a while, the seed falls just so, working its way through the old wooden table and the fabric of our clothes, and nests in our bosoms. There it stays, silent, hidden, until an unexpected splash of water calls it into life and the small green bud pushes itself out of uncomfortable soil and into the light.
Several weeks ago we had a guest for dinner, which meant our own free clamor was diminished as Daddy guided the conversation into more significant avenues. The talk turned to grandparents, specifically my father's father, who passed away in 2011 at the age of ninety-two. Our favorite stories of Grampie are those that take place several decades before his death, way back into the high summer of my own father's childhood, a mismatched bundle including the story of the Native American man who ran a campground store and supposedly answered "Me fixum lantern" to my grandfather's request, the stories of playing at being business men in my grandfather's office and sneaking gumdrops from the secretary's glass jar, and the old, old tales of when he was a pale, skinny boy living in that tremulous time between the Great War and the war that followed it. But this night in particular we discussed his last years.
"You know," Daddy says between bites, "my father didn't retire until he was in his eighties." He went on to say how my grandmother had encouraged him to retire at an earlier age, but Grampie would not give in. He didn't think it was right to stop working when one was still hale and healthy and sharp of mind.
My father's words struck me curiously, though I didn't recall them until a week later, when I was bent on the ground, reorganizing a lower cupboard that flatly refused to stay neat. The sentiment came gushing back over me in a sudden rush. You see, my grandfather was not one of those men who lived for the profit. He didn't scrounge and save his money for retirement and spend his autumn years in the tropics, though he could have if he wanted to. Despite the polio that never left his leg and forced him to walk with a cane more than half his life, he rarely complained and he always worked hard. Even when we visited him in his later years, he was still lively and busy, always reading, always learning. He greeted us with a smile, a cheerful laugh, and an able mind, despite his clumsy, stiffening limbs.
He was a simple man who lived a simple life in a simple town most people have never heard of. But he taught my father the value of honest labor, of taking pride in your craft and not the money it makes for you, and my father in his turn passes it down to us.
I need hardly say that our world no longer regards labor as a legitimate virtue. We either squander our time in frivolity or we trudge through jobs that are only a means to an end, eyes alight for the next vacation or break. Work is loathsome, uncomfortable, and dirty. It forces you to sweat, cry, and sometimes even bleed. It's too much for our frail frames to subject ourselves to such conditions without receiving much in return. We shouldn't have to feel the splinters in our hands.
Are you ready for the harsh truth?
Writers do that too.
click here to read the rest of the post on A Vapor in the Wind!