Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have I Learned A Thing or Two At My Age?

First of all, let me admit, until a few years ago, I had no idea what Black Friday meant. Oh, I knew the term had something to do with go-out-of-your-mind-crazy holiday shopping, but why was this day called Black Friday?
          The best I could come up with was that’s how Detroit fans felt about life after the annual Thanksgiving Day loss. Unfortunately, as a Cowboy fan, I feel the term currently describes my outlook in life as well. After a 38-31 loss to the Redskins, my beloved Cowboys stand one game under mediocre in the 21st century.
          At my age, you would think I’d learned a thing or two about life, but sometimes I make my wife wonder.
          For example, Ellen and I ran into a young mother I hadn’t seen in ages. I took one look at her and said, “When’s the baby due?”
          My question mortified Ellen who, as soon as we were out of earshot, told me never to do that again.
          Yes, I should have known better then, and, by now, I should have that life lesson down pat. I will admit I was strongly tempted to say something to a soon-to-have-twins pregnant mother, but I stayed strong and ignored the obvious. She volunteered her due date without my asking.
          And what about the previous young mother? She had given birth to a daughter two weeks earlier, so my question wasn’t entirely off the mark.
          Let me return to my simple premise. As people age, they should learn a thing or two.
          While walking my dog at a dog park, I met Bruce. He and I talked about our dogs and our families. He mentioned that his family had all gone through a recent bout of sickness.
          I asked, “How many children do you have?”
          Now you’ll have to admit that’s a pretty obvious follow-up question—nothing improper in the asking. I just wanted to know more details.
          And Bruce said, “I have three boys.”
          Here’s where I should have applied those previous know-a-thing-or-two lessons from past conversations.
          What I should have done was ask a simple, open-ended question. “How old are your boys?”
          What I did was ask a question based on one assumption—Bruce looked old (not older than me, mind you, but gray-haired old anyways).
“So how old are your boys—middle school? High school?”
          You can see where this is going can’t you?
          He said, “Grade school.”
          Grade school? Uh-oh!
          So here are the a-thing-or-two this gray-haired old guy now knows.
          Stop and think before you ask a question. During her Thanksgiving preparations, my friend asked a chef, “Should I stuff the turkey before or after brining?”
She knew the answer before she got the whole question out, but that didn’t stop the chef from bursting out laughing.
          Start with what you know, not what you assume. I knew Bruce had children. He’d already offered that information, so I started with what I knew when I asked him, “How many children do you have?”
          When he said, “Three boys,” I assumed they were older. I didn’t need to assume anything. I could have simply asked, “How old are they?”
          By the way, Black Friday has nothing to do with the outcome of Thanksgiving Day football games. The day kicks off the holiday retail season, a time when retailers hope to get their accounts in the black for the year.
          So I guess I have learned a thing or two at my age.


T. Neal Tarver, a native Texan living in Wisconsin, has served churches in Texas and Wisconsin. He, his wife Ellen, and son Daniel lived and worked for three years as missionaries in the Russian Far East. Tom speaks enough Russian to both converse and confuse.

In 2011, Tom was selected as a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest. He’s also been a two-time winner of MBT’s “Make Every Word Count Flash Fiction” contest. His debut novel, Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes, is available through WestBow Press, Amazon, BARNES & NOBLE, and other retail outlets.

He currently writes from his home in Richland Center, Wisconsin, or from wherever his travels take him. He posts weekly articles on Christian community at A Curious Band of Others.

Tom has spoken in churches across America, and in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.


alice wisler said...

Fun post! Thanks for your thoughts on Black Friday and all your "over 50 blunders".


TNeal said...

Not quite all. :-D

Thank you for the words of encouragement.