The Answer Man

The Answer Man

When Bill taught me how to drive a stick shift – using the brand new Honda he convinced me I should get – he drove me to a quiet residential street (translation: lots of stop signs), pulled over, and we switched places. He got back in on the passenger side, and I prepared to do whatever it was you do to get the thing to move, but I discovered an extra pedal on the floor and the gear box/shift/thing was between us instead of behind the steering wheel. Both confusing and daunting at the same time.

“What do I do?” I asked him once I’d buckled my seat belt.

“Just sit there for a minute and let me explain how the transmission works,” he said. I groaned (to myself, of course). I was primed to get started but told to just sit there. Instructions were coming but not, as they say, forthwith. He deemed it necessary that I understand what actually happens when I “clutch” so I would know why he was saying do this or that in one way or another. It ceased to be of interest after a couple of minutes, largely because he’s such a slow talker. It takes a while for the words to come forward. Then they tend to crawl out of his mouth, and I want to reach in and drag them out to get things moving. If he aged as slowly as he speaks, he’d only be 35 years old this year.

Asking him questions is a mistake I frequently make, but he’s really the go-to person for questions of all kinds. There is very little he can’t answer whether it’s about science, history, geography, whatever – and that goes for crossword puzzles, too. I always save asking him anything for last, though, and only if I’m really struggling with one of those puzzles. I have to be desperate to complete the thing because I know I’ll get more than the simple answer I want so I can move on.

And, no, using a dictionary or an encyclopedia is not an option. My granddaughter, Stephanie, and I consider that cheating. We just keep coming back to it later until we figure it out.

Today happens to be Bill’s birthday, and I found the perfect card for this occasion. A bunch of colorful

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

Candles spell out the traditional English birthday greeting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

candles are perched atop a fancy cake on the cover. Not exactly party animals, but hey.  Each candle sports a distinctive look – 4 are wearing different pairs of glasses, one apparently doesn’t need any. One is a girl. You can tell by the daisy stuck in the topknot of hair (as in wick) on her head, and she’s wearing librarian-like specs. The others are supposedly guy candles – one bearing a puzzled look, his cartoon eyebrows pointing inward and down with eyes that are crossed. Another bears a chic look in fashionable rectangular-framed glasses. The other two appear to be more casual, one sporting goggle-like frames and the last lazing around on top of the cake, taking in the gathering crowd.

“If each candle on your birthday cake could talk, I’m sure it would have a story to tell,” the cover begins, then opens to “but it would probably be some boring story about a wax factory.”

This is Bill, and the story he would tell would go on and on and on, like so many others I’ve heard over the years. Yada, Yada – and Blah, Blah, Blah…

It was a card I simply had to buy because it represents exactly what he does – offers more information than needed. He’s the kind of guy that, if you ask him what time it is, you will either get a lecture on how the clock works or a history of how clocks have developed over the centuries (starting with sundials). You might even get both.

I’m a word-lover from way back, but there is a limit, which I think he’s begun to understand. The other day we were driving along and I asked a question (you’d think I’d have learned by now). He gave me the answer and was beyond it by maybe two sentences when my attention began to drift.  Suddenly I heard him say “but you’re probably not interested in that.”

“Whatever gave you that I idea,” I said, and we both started laughing.

We are working this thing out, even though it’s taking decades.

When my brother-in-law called to wish Bill a happy birthday this morning, we discussed the blog issue that looms large these days – that fact that I “deep-sixed” Bill in my first post, making Bob hesitant to talk to me lest I use his own words against him, skewering him in a subsequent post. Bill wasn’t here, and Bob was trying hard to get off the phone, but I wouldn’t let him go that easily. Don’t show your hand, I always say. Let ‘em sweat. Keep ‘em guessing. Bob’s made of strong stuff, though, just like his older brother. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” as Bill would say, as cliche as that may be.

We may re-visit birthdays in two weeks, when Bob has his – but only if he makes good on his threat to to retaliate, with a blog of his own.


3 thoughts on “The Answer Man

  1. Maria Bosio

    Happy Birthday, Bill!!!!
    I really enjoy your blog, Linda!!!!
    I miss talking with you–remember those long talks we used to have?

  2. Roger

    Oh, I love the idea of Bill starting his own blog. His delivery of thoughts is so original. For your campaign of jabbing Bill, you should have a long, confidential talk with Elizabeth (Beth). Ask her about the third floor window in the first Adams Avenue house. Please God, don’t let Bill read this reply. By the way, your blog is so engaging, not just because I know the people but because you write so well.

  3. howardaldrich

    Hehehehe. My father was very much like Bill as far as answering questions goes. He had so much knowledge on such a wide variety of subjects, and he was full of obscure historical allusions. Worse still, if he didn’t know the answer to your question, he would spend the next 20 minutes or so hunting through his huge library and then hand you a book dealing with whatever question you had asked!
    God, I miss him.
    (P.S. Using the dictionary or Encyclopedia to help solve a crossword puzzle is not cheating Linda! 😛 )


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