Holding Open the Door
Blessed are those who hold the door open for another. Or is it they are holding open the door? Which comes first – are we holding the door open or holding open the door?
Do we jot the words down or do we jot down the words?
Are we picking up the pen or picking the pen up?
If I knew these grammar rules back in my school days – I’ve forgotten them. So I say: Blessed are the punctuation kings and queens. Those who can edit – more power to them. They deserve a crown indeed. Or indeed, they deserve a crown.
I am a writer who is stingy with her use of exclamation points. My thinking is: If I’ve written the words as they should be, the reader does not need an exclamation point.
Now if the house is on fire, I will add an exclamation point. After all, in the case of a fire, you’d better be raising your voice. If it’s important enough that the characters in the story will have to run quickly, perhaps an exclamation point should be used.
On the other hand, I’m generous with my use of dashes. The dash is needed when I want to include an extra thought.
Every family has at least one story that ought to be written down. You know the story I’m talking about. That one. It’s fun to retell, especially if there’s someone who hasn’t heard it before.
Ask any Kimpel kid about our family stories, and the “Evening of the Fire-That-Wasn’t,” is probably the most talked about. My siblings and I can offer our individual memories of the night we stood in the front yard, having evacuated a house that wasn’t on fire. We watched the fire trucks pull up. Three of them. The firemen sat in their idling trucks while the fire chief and a few others jumped out of their trucks to find out what was going on. Why did they drive across town only to find their assistance wasn’t needed?
When Stevie and I visited with Joe Hinkle, who knows a few things about being a fireman, he went through his scrapbooks with us. He told me he remembered the night my sisters called the fire department. They were just young girls who thought the house was on fire – based on the fact that a smoke alarm was sounding from behind a closed door. They ran to the Wickerham’s house to ask Warnie and Odelia to call the fire department.
Joe also remembered when Edgerton Metals factory was on fire. That was a fire my family won’t soon forget. Within Joe’s scrapbook is a newspaper clipping that told the story. Joe can fill in the details of how bad that fire really was. How terribly exhausted the firemen were. How many surrounding units had to be called in.
With Father’s Day just a few days away, perhaps it’s a good time to pick up our pen, or pick our pen up, and write a note to a special guy in our life.
Whether he’s still here on earth, or not, we can jot a few things down. Or jot down a few things. There was a guy who loved us. He may not have said it, but he showed it. The best gift he could receive is an appreciation letter. From one adult to another.
There are others whose actions have shown how much they care for us. Neighbors who’ll make emergency calls when asked. Men who drop everything they’re doing and drive big equipment trucks safely across town. When heroic measures are needed, they know what to do.
There are teachers who taught us how to write. Who care about commas and dashes. And exclamation points only when necessary.
I found a letter my brother Ed had written to my parents at the time of their 50th wedding anniversary. Ed thanked them for their prayers while he was in the service. He told them the best gift he’d ever received was his first letter from them after being stationed in Vietnam. It arrived on December 24th.
I can read the many letters Ed had sent home while he was in the service, but he was unable to save the cards and letters he’d received from his family and friends. It would have required too many suitcases.
In his letters, he mentioned the names of those who had sent him mail. And because he was receiving the Edgerton Earth newspaper, he was able to keep up on the hometown news.
Ed’s letter to my parents was penned in 1997. He’d shared some humorous thoughts as well as heartwarming memories.
He was the oldest boy in a family of eleven children. He watched as Mom held so many newborns, who were then the baby of the family, only until the next baby came along. Then the baby became one of us.
He ended his letter with the following memory:
One of the things I would like to mention is I can’t remember getting turned down when I asked for your help in anything, except for one time. I had bought an old car and the floorboards were full of holes and needed some new sheet metal. I asked Dad if he would patch it up for me and he said, “Why don’t you try doing it yourself?” So I did. That may have been the start of my getting in the furnace business. When I started working for the Hardware, Dad taught me a trade, and I would like to thank him for that. Couldn’t have done it without you. I think some of his grandsons have inherited his mechanical ability.
My book, Picket Fences, is a look back at the generation before us. How they loved. How they gave. Perhaps a gift we could give to the special people in our lives – the dads, the neighbors, the firemen, those who’ve taught us in any way – is an acknowledgment of the love they’ve shown through their actions.
We don’t have to write a book. An editor is not needed. Just the picking up of a pen. Just the jotting down of a few good thoughts. Written words. On a piece of paper.
The best gift a guy could ever receive.