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Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Balloon. By John von Daler

                                In my #father's opinion the world should have been a silent place indeed: in so much as you did not have a wise or new thought to express, you should remain silent.

His way of thinking might have put quite a lid on many of the dinner parties he attended. Happily enough, people less wise than he spoke into and out of the void and filled his muted company with chatter and laughter. His silence was seen as a sign of incredible wisdom and his reputation was enhanced as a result. You know, the dark silent type.
                I myself was no chatterer. I was, after all, his son, and I was used to his silence, which in itself constituted a fine showcase for my mother's lively storytelling and embellishment of the facts of daily life. When we were alone with her, he and I would each sit in his bubble of silence surrounded by her stream of words.
                Ah, but when we were alone with each other! Like the train ride after various holidays as I went back to Princeton and he took his usual commute to New York from Norwalk. Here the New York Times prevailed - along with the enforced silence of the smoking, reading, and sleeping commuters. Muttering under the breath was allowed, though. I must admit, I longed for just a word of comradeship or interest from him, but he had been brought up by an Austrian general who visited the nursery only once a day - in full uniform - and who did not find speech necessary at all.
                Generally the hour to New York from Norwalk took place in total silence between father and son. Then, as the train rolled underground into that spiderweb of tracks that binds New York to the continent, he would fold the Times and put it in his briefcase. Reaching for his overcoat, he would stand up and look back toward me.
                "Study well," he would say. "Get good grades."
                I, who was hard pressed just to get the reading done, much less to get good grades, always grunted some monosyllabic answer that was not meant to deepen his understanding of my situation.
                "Um. Yep. Sure will." Then we shook hands and he was gone. How I wanted in those moments to have had a father slightly less gifted and slightly more genial. A cowboy, say, who could lift his ten-gallon hat, slap me on the back and ask, "How ya doin' with the gals, ol' buddy?" or even a Viennese gentleman in a three piece suit who might offer, "Let's get a drink in the bar vile I vill tell you about my first mistress..."
                Families should be bubbly whatever that may cost. Maintaining silence between father and son is about as fun as blowing balloons half-way up just because you are afraid they might explode.

If you found this worth your while, then my book, "Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude", might interest you too.

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