Sunday, May 19, 2013

meeting my hero

When I think of heroes or role models, I agree with former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins who commented once in a radio interview, "Meeting your favorite author is one of life's most reliable disappointments."

Others might wish wistfully that they could spend time with Buddha or Gandhi or Jesus or Einstein or some knock-it-out-of-the-park baseball great, but I have a very strong hunch that if the wish came true, the most notable reaction might be to wish the wish-come-true had never occurred.

And yet for all my rule-of-thumb certainty, I do sort of wish wistfully that I could meet a pig farmer I once heard interviewed on the radio. Later, I would search in vain for the interview I listened to with half an ear as I drove the 20 miles between work and home years ago. I never did find it and yet the tenor and taste and deliciousness of what my half-ear caught remains ... and whispers wistfully.

What I remember is sketchy: The pig farmer lived with his wife in one of the southern states -- Alabama or Louisiana or Georgia, perhaps. His kids had left home and had no desire to continue the business that had nurtured them into adulthood. The farmer said this with some sadness, but he did not seem to be overwhelmed by it. He knew what he knew and did what he did and loved what he loved ... or anyway that's what I heard in his words. A man, without asking, of substance.

His wife and he were a team. When he came home at the end of a long and tiring day, she would cook supper for him. But if she had had a particularly tiring day, he would cook supper for her. During difficult deliveries of piglets, it was she who thrust her hand into the pig's birth canal to ease the transaction: His hands were too big. Both had been through hard times and easy ones ... or anyway that's the recollection I have without remembering specific testimony.

There seemed to be a certain serene dignity to this man. Nothing sage and nothing but sage.

No doubt I would be disappointed if I met him.

But wistfully and wishfully, I'd risk it.

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