Two ears for a reason

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Without knowing it, without realizing it, something has happened. I’ve matured as a human being.

Trust me — it’s as big of a surprise to me as it is to some of you. The extremely opinionated, often vocal, sometimes confrontational young man is now gone. Replacing him is someone who is much mellower, conciliatory, and actually thinks of the consequences before he speaks.

Now, more often than not, I find myself listening twice as much than speaking. Mind you, it wasn’t due to anything I’ve done. Unless, of course, getting older counts as doing something.

No matter how hard one tries, once spoken, words can’t be taken back. And once written down, words never go away. These two rules have become painfully clear to me over the years.

If silence is golden, I should be a billionaire by now, but it hasn’t always been that way. It’s taken many thumps on the head with an Auburn graduation ring to pound the message through my thick skull.

We spent the better part of our youth growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, and I can remember Dad had many jewels of wisdom while we lived there. With five kids, it seemed a lot of it was about the rewards of not talking. Whenever my parents had company over, Dad would say, “Children should be seen but not heard.”

Of course I knew this didn’t apply to me because I wasn’t a children — I was 10. Right after those words came out of my mouth is when I was first introduced to the ring. At least I think so. I was popped on the head a lot by that ring while growing up.

Back in the day when a swift hand on the bottom of a misbehaving child wouldn’t send parents to jail for abusive behavior, there was Dad’s gradation ring. Ask any of us kids, and we’d say it was the size of a billiard ball, and was made out of the hardest substance on Earth – Dad’s will.

Dad never popped us anywhere else but on the head. No one ever noticed that us four boys walked around most days with a goose egg or two under our hair.

It wasn’t like Dad beat us all the time; he didn’t. It was more like we just couldn’t behave. Or at least I think I didn’t, I don’t really remember too well. I got popped a bunch. Which could explain a lot of things now, but I digress.

Dad’s ring kept us in line through Mt. Olive Elementary, five years at Briarwood (Home of the Mighty Buccaneers) and until we all went off to college, but the threat of it has never really gone away.

At 82, Dad still wears his Auburn graduation ring every day. Or maybe he just wears it around us kids as a reminder of the lessons he taught us about talking vs. listening.

The best advice I remember Dad gave us about talking was, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. He intended you to listen twice as much as you talk.”

You know, sometimes the things my Dad said when I was a kid were really smart. That ring got his message through. Maybe President Obama needs to borrow it so those people in Congress will listen to him and pass his budget.

As I count the old lumps on my head, I wonder if The Boy has learned the value of listening. If not, I’ll just send him to visit his grandfather, and he can introduce him to his ring.

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