Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I live an idyllic life. All you older men out there will know exactly what I mean. My wife is half my age. There are three kids in our household, a sixteen-year-old boy and two younger girls. All of them wait on me hand and foot. I merely have to indicate a wish and someone rushes off to fulfill it. They treat me with great respect. They greet me with a slight bow and hands, palms together, at their chests.

The neighborhood women gather each evening on our patio to gossip. My wife is the ringleader. She is an incessant talker and, evidently, quite a comic. I have seen her keep her little audience laughing for an hour at a time.

I enjoy having the family surrounding me and the nightly social event on the patio.


Because none of them speaks English. I don’t have to interact. I can move among them all, smiling and nodding, and not say a word. What could be better than that?

Then came my visitor. This was a classmate for three years in junior high school (Portola, San Francisco). The last time we spoke he was counseling me on the error of my ways in high school. That was sixty years ago. A lifetime had intervened. We had a lot of catching up to do.

In the course of his visit, he took my entire family to a prominent Thai restaurant. As is her habit, my wife ordered dish after dish, keeping them coming. That gave my friend and me plenty of time to talk. I had seldom talked so much in my life.

I caught my family members staring at me in amazement. They had no idea that I was capable of uttering more than a few guttural sounds at a time. There I was in a lengthy, animated conversation. It didn’t matter that they could not understand a word. It was a revelation to them.

It was after he left that the horror arrived. My wife has started to intensify her effort to learn English. She wants to be able to talk to me. She wants to have a conversation with me. She wants to ruin my paradise.

All you older men out there will know exactly what I mean.


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