6.01.2009

The Road to Sainthood is Silent

"My husband thinks I'm a saint because I don't talk back," my sister Jan says. Since she got laid off, she calls more. She tells me more, too.

My sister is the queen of keeping silent and I worship at her feet. Growing up, I was the one who'd talk back, have the last word, say the "tone" that brought the tears. At least that's how I remember it. I'll love whoever says I'm exaggerating.

Jan, though, kept a pleasant expression and retained her dignity growing up, even through high school. That's right, she had dignity and I had "tone." When you don't say anything, people can't misinterpret your explanations. They can read all sorts of things into you but if you're not sassing, the things they read are usually better than you deserve. Keeping quiet gives you all the benefits that talking takes away.

She figured this all out pretty quickly. I think it helped having a lightning rod of an older sister, me. If there was tension, I made it my business to get in the middle of it. I was the bad cop so she could be the good one. It's the least I could do for slamming the toy box on her head, or so I've been told.

Now the good cop's married to a guy with "tone."

"I used to be a saint," she says. "When we first married, I didn't talk back. He'd say crazy things and I'd keep quiet. He thinks I still do. But after you're married a while, you know what? You do become like each other."

"It's true," I say. "I used to get mad at Charlie for farting so much. He farts, then he laughs like he's a five year-old boy. I don't remember farting before marrying him. Now I notice, maybe because I'm older, I fart. I fart more than ever. And you know what? It's starting to become funny."

My sister's laughing while I think to myself, Will I ever learn to shut up?

"When he says crazy things," Jan says, "Guess what? I turn my head and say nasty things right back. Little does he know: he can't hear. I'm still a saint, but only because he's going deaf."

"You say nasty things?"

"Every once in a while, he hears me and he's shocked. 'You've changed,' he says. Yeah, I changed a long time ago, I'll say. I became crazy like you but you just haven't heard me. But he doesn't even hear me say that!"

Now I'm laughing even though I don't believe any of it. She may think she's saying nasty things but I know her. She's the good cop. Her husband's a good cop kind of guy, too. Their kids are definitely good cop kind of kids. You can feel the respect in their family when you walk in their house. Even on her son's YouTube skateboarding videos, you can see the love.

And, as long as you're slightly deaf, you can hear it, too.