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Finding the right words

November 18, 2011

By Rusty Nixon

I don’t write songs. I love music more than almost anything in this world but its creation from the raw material of notes has always escaped me as a language.
I don’t paint. I flunked coloring in kindergarten. Really. Something about staying inside the lines.
The one thing that I seemed to be blessed with is the ability to put words together to form an understandable and pleasing series of anecdotes, information and images that seem to mildly amuse people. I find however more and more the difficulty — even in this discipline — of finding words that express the feelings that I have. Especially regarding the most important relationships in my life.
I’ve always felt that maybe I lacked talent as a writer.
Nearly every writer that I’ve known or read about, whose work I respect and or love, all had horribly dysfunctional relationships with their father. My father has been my best friend almost since the day I was born. There is the uncertainty that maybe the functionality of that relationship negates me from having the proper angst to connect with my feelings and share with my audience since I always had a supportive audience to share with at home.
Maybe it’s a genetic flaw. My father and his father were also close. I might venture to go as far as to say best friends.
My grandfather was a jewel of a man with an easy laugh, and a very particular point of view. He was demanding in things that mattered and easy going in things that weren’t.
I spent enormous amounts of time with him due to his constant kidnapping of my brother and I to spend weekends at his house. He regaled us with trips to Dairy Queen, the smell of bacon, eggs and coffee cooking early every morning, and errand runs all over town.
He liked his steak very rare.
“Just light a match in the kitchen while it’s there and that’s done enough for me,” he used to say.
My father would take us to visit Grandpa almost every day in the summer and I learned everything I ever needed to know listening to them solve the world’s problems every afternoon.
His love of food and life was equaled by his love of sports and I would wager that he never missed a single athletic contest his children or grandchildren were involved with. He was always there. He always sat all alone at the furthest reaches of the baseball field in his lawn chair, far away from anybody else, the furthest distance he could get from the stands and the other relatives.
I always wondered why. Now that I have children of my own, I realize that my grandfather may have been the wisest man who ever lived.
I have that lawn chair. It’s all I asked for when he died. I sit in it now to watch my own sons at the farthest reaches of the ball park. I think of him always and wonder if my sons will some day think of me and maybe if I’m lucky, think that I too had my grandfather’s wisdom.
He’s been gone a long time now, but I think I miss him more every day because of watching my sons grow and knowing that they will never know him except through my stories. My father has expressed to me often that he too sometimes has difficulty with missing his father.
And that thought strikes me in another way. Because my father, inevitably, will be gone as well.
My children idolize their grandfather, my dad — as they should.
He’s far from perfect. Ask him. He’s more than happy to throw off the mantle of perfection and hold his faults bare for all to see.
His greatest quality, in my mind, is that you always know exactly how he feels about something. He doesn’t leave anyone grasping for hidden meaning in subtle signs. He is what he is, and as far as I know, accepts those in his life — whether he agrees with them or disagrees with them — for what they are. For him that is a show of great respect.
I am happy that my sons will not have to know their grandfather through the stories I tell. He tells them his own stories. And it’s during those times they may think he’s a little crazy, but they will have his stories to tell their children.
And they can learn by listening to he and I solve the world’s problems talking together too.
It’s those relationships — stories — that I struggle to put on paper the most. As I watch my children now, growing every day, becoming men all to themselves, I wonder what words or feelings they will have of me as they watch their sons grow.
My stories are right there for them to witness and put into their own words. I wonder which words they will choose and if — like me — they will struggle to get them right.
Mostly I pray that they will question their ability as a writer for the same reason that I do.

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