Advent: In This Age of Uncertainty…(December 22, 2008)

   …comes the seventh installment of the story of the Little Boy who had no gifts.

   "You have to understand him in the ironic sense," his father once said of the Little Boy who had no gifts. "If you can see him ironically, he makes more sense."

   "I don't understand what that means," his good mother said. "How do we tell people they have to see him ironically if they are going to appreciate him?"

   "What do we do," she added, "hang a sign around his neck?"

   His father did not like her tone. He was trying to help make sense of his son. Why did she have to argue with him when he wanted to make the Little Boy seem closer to normal?

   He decided not to talk to his wife for awhile.

   "He takes after your side of the family," Father said, and immediately wished he had kept his intention not to speak to her for awhile.

   Now, he had little choice about talking with her.

   "I knew you would say something like that," his good wife told him. "Just because of Uncle Ralph and his commotion spells. He can't help it. He got hit on the head really, really hard when he was born."

   "You should not make fun of Uncle Ralph," she added, with vehemence.

   "Who said anything about old Ralph?" her husband demanded, secretly glad to talk about Ralph, or air, or global warming, or anything except his declaration that the Little Boy who had no gifts took after her side of the family.

   "You said he is like my side of the family," she reminded him. "You know very well Ralph is the only member of my family who is even mildly abnormal."

   Sometimes in life, you can hear words forming and know they are no good. You see them come up, in your mind, form into sentences, array themselves in battle line as paragraphs. You know the words are no good. You want them to be stillborn but no, oh, no, suddenly, there they are and nothing to do but say them, say them I say, pronounce them right out loud and then wish them back but, no, too late, there they are, out there where they can do no good at all and much harm to many.

   "Ralph is about the most normal one in the whole bunch, when he is not having his commotion spells," the husband said, and wished again he had kept his personal vow not to speak to his wife for a time.

   "What is that supposed to mean?" she wanted to know, though she knew what it was supposed to mean and even knew what it did mean. She was really just letting out the line so her verbose husband could tangle himself in the line a bit more and perhaps set the hook for her as well.

   "I just mean it is ironic you call Ralph abnormal," the husband obliged her.

   "After all, he is only abnormal when he has his commotion spells," he reminded her. "He is like a broken watch, which is still correct twice a day."

   "Not if it is a digital watch," she shot back at him with unassailable logic. "If it is digital, it blinks off and is never right at all."

   "Then you whole side of the family should be compared to a digital watch," her husband said, ending the evening's discussion.

   "I just meant you  have to take the boy with a grain of salt," he said to the empty kitchen after she had stormed out to the bedroom and slammed the door.

   "He has to be seen ironically," Father repeated, and made himself a cup of tea. Since no one disagreed with him just then, he assumed silence as acquiescence.

   "How ironic," he thought. "I could have won the whole argument and no fight beside, if I had just waited until she left the room."

   In this thought, Father mistook irony for more simple incongruity but he was never good with the follow-up question, anyway, being mostly a Stoic thinker. He could simply never see the difference between his level of knowledge and the knowledge of his audience. Therein would reside the necessary conflict, but Father seldom saw how frustrated he made people.

   "Ironic indeed," he thought again, and sipped his tea.



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