I have no idea when I learned to talk the first time. I imagine I was around two, but I have no memory of a time when I couldn’t talk.
Didn’t talk is another matter.
I spent a fair amount of time by myself when I was a kid, and even as an adult, I lived alone for about six years before I met my bride. Most of that time, I didn’t talk unless I needed to.
And that wasn’t very often.
I never understood or participated in small talk or talking just to say something.
“Good morning,” and “How are you,” were phrases I never understood.
They don’t mean anything other than a casual greeting. You don’t know or care if I’m having a good morning, and I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear how I’m doing, so why ask?
I used to have a neighbor that greeted me with a big smile and a hearty good morning every time I came out of my apartment.
Pissed me off.
I don’t know where my reticence comes from. Maybe it’s all the years of being by myself. Perhaps if they tested me today, they would discover I’m “on the spectrum” or some such.
Maybe, I’m just an asshole.
But for whatever reason, I just don’t have much to say.
I think Cool Hand Luke summed it up pretty well way back in 1967.
“What we’ve got here…is failure to communicate.” ~Strother Martin
As anyone married knows, this caused no end of friction with my wife when we first got together, and more than a few arguments.
Of course, my side of the argument was pretty quiet.
Eventually, she figured me out, at least as much as anyone can.
She learned I would speak if I had something to say, and if I was quiet, there wasn’t any deep, dark secret behind it.
I wasn’t mad, just quiet.
Our social life didn’t do much to change my withdrawn demeanor. At any given point, we only had a few friends and saw them only occasionally.
Of course, I talked at work when I had to, but I was a tech geek, so my lack of communication skills came with the job description. As long as I kept the hamster wheels spinning, everyone left me alone.
And when I did speak, no one knew what the hell I was talking about anyway.
Over our 40 years of marriage, we lived in three different neighborhoods and had a combined total of about half a dozen neighbors with which we were on more than a smile and a wave basis. There were probably not more than a dozen social get-togethers with neighbors in all those years.
Then soon after we turned 62, something radical changed.
No, I didn’t have some sort of epiphany.
I didn’t go into therapy, get a new medication, or find Jesus.
What I did was move into an over-55 community.
And within the first week, I made more friends than in my previous 60 years combined.
Sure, some of these were smile and wave kind of neighbors. But most of them were genuinely nice people who wanted to spend time with us.
I’m pretty sure it’s my wife they want to spend time with, but that’s beside the point.
The point is that suddenly I had forty or fifty people that wanted to talk with me. Religious and political differences aside, we all had a somewhat common background, and we ended up in the same place for, mostly, the same reasons.
The age difference was higher than I thought it would be, between 55 and 87 last I checked. But even though this was still the span of a generation, we were all like-minded adults who enjoy each other’s company.
We play games and go on trips. We have enrichment seminars on a variety of topics of interest to people our age. We help each other in times of need and grief.
And we talk — a lot.
Hell, the other day, I even said good morning to somebody.
I still don’t know why.
Now, go away and leave me the hell alone.