Bobby Winters Guest Columnist
Ada — When I was down in Brazil, I went into a shop to practice my Portuguese and buy a Pepsi. I managed to get my request out, and the fellow must’ve understood me because he brought me what I asked for. He then asked me if I was an American. I told him I was and he said he could tell because I was fat. “Gordo” was the word he used, to be specific.
A week later in Paraguay, I’d been speaking at a meeting and an American missionary came to speak to me afterwards. She was a young woman in her thirties. After a bit of chit-chat, she gave me a book about the graces of growing old.
I’ve known for a while that I’m fat. I’ve realized for a while that I’m growing older. It is nice to have both of these things affirmed by honest, forthright strangers. None of it was meant unkindly. They were both quite affable. That makes it all the more special.
There are graces to be had with growing older. I’ve mentioned it in this space before. There are things I can do now with a two-minute phone conversation that at one time would’ve taken me a half day of leg work.
But I also have a greater understanding of life.
Back in the late 1970s, a friend of mine named Darrell Blevins played the guitar.
He still does; I’ve Facebooked him about it. He was the first person I heard play the song “Lyin’ Eyes.” Later, I discovered the Eagles had a version of it too.
It’s one of those songs I hear on the radio. I catch a phrase of it now and then. Sometimes I think about what it means; sometimes I don’t. I sometimes sing along with the chorus when I am alone in the car and don’t have daughters along to embarrass.
Then one day I heard a phrase I’d heard many times before: “And it breaks her heart to think her love is only/Given to a man with hands as cold as ice.”
And I understood something; I saw the situation from another point of view. It may have helped that my hands were ice-cold at the time.
In high school, I’d seen things from the side of the girl in the song; the poor thing was stuck with an old man. Suddenly, my point of view shifted, and in doing so, I understood the complex message of the lyrics. The song is not an apologetic for adultery. It is a mirror held up for the girl. It is a Dorian Grey-style portrait. It is a frank and forthright description.
In the song, the husband’s age gives him enough understanding of the world to know what his wife is doing. Her youth allows her to have the illusion that she might be fooling someone. If she is, it is only herself. His knowledge is a curse; her ignorance is a balm.
The genius of poetry tells this complex story in a few words, and the story makes us think. Knowing the truth doesn’t necessarily make us happy. Often the truth is used like a dangerous chemical. It is brought out at certain points by someone with heavy gloves and tongs, but the rest of the time it is kept locked away where light can’t touch it.
We live in a world where we worship image, and not just the graven kind. By shining light toward what we want seen and away from what we wish to be invisible, we can perform magical transformations. You can fool 90 percent of the people 90 percent of the time if you’re good at it. But if you are going to play the image game make sure you aren’t part of the 90 percent you are fooling. As that guy Shakespeare (I think he played for the Eagles at one time) said it: “To thine own self be true.
As I age, I am less interested in fooling other people about who I am, and more interested in knowing myself who I am. Ï learn a little more every day. I know the Eagle were right; I know Shakespeare was right.
I guess that’s something.
(Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, has been married to the same woman for nigh on to three decades; he and his wife have three daughters and one grandson. Bobby blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. )