Seen, yet Not Heard
by William Anton Lee
Music, Mutterings, and Monologues
Writings here are the personal journal of a fifty-plus year old grandfather, father, husband, friend, coach and brother. Inevitably these influence my passions and experiences and specifically my thoughts and writings. The eldest child born to a Minnesotan Army Private in his late 20’s and a German Immigrant in her early 20’s, I made quite an initial impression with a red, purple and white mosaic from hip to toe. Of course they asked. The doctors guessed. They said it was a birthmark. And, 48-years later an enlightened doctor corrected this life-long understanding. Importantly, while I was genetically engineered by Klippel-Trenauanay Syndrome, my childhood was all the better for the misdiagnosis. Mom and Dad raised me as they did my brothers. A somewhat typical army brat I traveled from my birth place, Fort Huachuca, Az, to San Antonio, Tx, welcoming brother Rick; to St. Louis, Mo, waiting while Mom studied and became an American citizen; to Verdon, France, welcoming brother Norman and traveling via train to Wernfeld, Deutschland, where we regularly visited my German family; to Washington, DC, losing our three-year old pioneer, brother Norman, to open heart surgery and welcoming brother Michael; and finally, landing more permanently in Carmichael, Ca, where I entered Christian Brothers High School, Sacramento, as a freshman. Life became more regular once in high school, but this new normal included discovering my American family, Mom and Dad divorcing and splitting up the Brothers Lee; working full-time while attending high school; losing my driver’s license for a year; learning about girls and friendship; finding my angel, true love and life partner; having two amazing children; developing life-long friends; celebrating the marriage of each of our children which brought us two new kids and two, soon three, grandkids; losing mom early to ALS; saying goodbye to Dad at 80 years of age; and more recently losing my father in-law, Pop, at 95 years of age.
The title of this endeavor, my personal journal is Seen Yet Not Heard. It is derived from an expression my father often favored. Although when Dad spoke those magic words – “kids are meant to be seen, but not heard” – it was more a telling of how he was raised than how he reared us. In fond memory of my father, Dad was rarely serious when he spoke in this manner. For the most part, Dad gave us ample intellectual space. We were allowed to speak freely in what his parent’s generation might have called the Adults Room. Dad taught me to think, to question authority. Interestingly, it was entirely different when the Grand Aunts and Uncles were in the room. This generation of adults, those that raised my father, this colorful collection of gray-haired giants who often spoke about the day’s news or other such things in front of the kids, expected generational respect. In short, hush…..! How my Dad assembled his open and enlightened parenting tool kit I’ll never know, but grateful are his boys for breaking the mold.
I’m not sure why, but this kid found my Grand Aunts and Uncles equally endearing and informative despite their strong opinions and conservative approach to child-rearing. I often was the only kid sitting in the Adults Room listening while the other siblings and cousins smartly chose the Worm Barn and/or Porch. Imagine my joy when one day the Grand Aunts and Uncles invited me, the kid, to join their conversation. Short lived it was. Either I seriously irritated them, or I was just too naive to understand the adult mind, because it was then that I heard this expression spoken with a bit more somber tone. Thereafter, a kind of self-imposed moratorium on kid speech resulted. Luckily the seat on the floor remained open to me in spite of my youthful exuberance. Adulthood came early for me. Oh ya, revenge can be so sweet! Try to shut me up now – I’m 18, working full-time, and engaged to be married. Oh my, hear me roar! All kidding aside, respect for the Grand Aunts and Uncles remains to this day. In time they forgave my youth and relented – full participation in adult conversations was allowed and we all came to enjoy those days. No one was offended when, at the end of the day, the youthful ones were not dissuaded from their new perch and the seasoned veterans comically wished for a reversion to older days. The once seemingly punitive expression – “kids are meant to be seen, but not heard” – was now a new-age term of endearment. What wonderful times we had!
I do laugh quite a bit these days when I remember the Grand Aunts and Uncles and our Saturday afternoon conversations. They just might be rolling over in their graves. Their once very protected conversations now occur anytime and anywhere, not to mention with an incredibly diverse circle of folks across multiple generations. I think my Dad would be happy. He encouraged us kids to think and pushed us to be our own advocates. I believe he would enjoy our new media and the chance to continue our conversations no matter how far we moved away from home. In his honor I’ve tweaked Dad’s words and adopted these as a tongue-in-cheek reference to modern-day dialog. In large part, these words are a constant reminder for me to be humble, but not fearful about talking with my neighbors about anything at anytime. Although admittedly there are times when I feel like a powerful minority of narcissistic people seem to have a greater voice than us common folk. Thankfully, the new media gives us a chance to speak our peace in our own way and in our own time.
What a great new day it is!
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