Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

A father's silence speaks eloquently

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– Yogi Berra

I often wondered what my father was thinking.

The tall man who turned 83 on Saturday and celebrates his 60th Father’s Day today can dominate a room, and often does, greeting others, shaking hands and taking charge. But he also has a talent for reflective silence. Attentive. Focused. But quiet.

He has used such moments effectively in the past, finding that those who are more talkative will usually arrive at the proper conclusion, which he will then affirm.

After retiring from two careers, he spends much time these days on a screened-in back porch looking out on the visits of birds and squirrels.

If you drop by, he will warmly ask your news and perhaps share a bit of his own.

But often the conversation will wind down and you will notice that you are both sitting quietly. Content, but silent.

It’s often been his way.

We have home movies from the early 1960s, and they show a dark-haired dad in a backyard lawn chair just sitting.

Even then, I wondered what he was thinking about.

Would it be his youth? Would he be thinking back to growing up on a farm, and plowing and planting and all those hard, hot days that none of his children would ever have to experience? Nor ever want to.

Is he thinking about the service? His naval duty during the Korean War that involved trips around the globe and took advantage of his talent for Morse code – the dash-and-dot staccato he can still tap on a tabletop.

Was he thinking about his own father, whom he lost half a century ago? His mother, who passed decades later? His younger brother, an old Marine, who died in the 1990s?

Does he think about his business life? After all, he had two careers. For 30 years he was a telecommunications executive.

He retired and then began his own business, repairing antique clocks, and for two decades it suited his sense of both patience and precision.

Is he thinking about his wife, my mother? The only woman he ever dated. Their courtship was right out of the screwball comedies of the 1940s. He discouraged other suitors by running the pants of one up a flagpole. Their first date was chaperoned by his three little brothers. He proposed in a phone booth.

Six decades later he still dotes on her.

Is he thinking about his friends? So many over the years. And so many passing away.

Yet he’s still here, quietly sitting on a porch.

I wonder what he’s thinking, but I don’t bring it up because I’m certain I know.

But if I did ask, he would turn, look at me as he would any of his children and simply say, “You.”

It’s a father’s answer on a Father’s Day.


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