Twisting words

My sister got mad at me many times, but sometime in the last year of her life she said that I’d “twisted her words”. I don’t know if it was on email or on the phone, but I felt hurt. I do take people’s words seriously, I do look them over carefully, I do ask questions about what they say. The memory training as a small child, to memorize all the verses of songs, means that I have an excellent word memory. Combine that with the medical training, where you have to present an entire patient history from memory: chief complaint, history of present illness, past medical history, social history, medications, family history, physical exam, labs, xrays, specialist opinions, assessment and plan. One boyfriend complained that I would remember what he said and ask questions a week later. He’d say, “I don’t remember what I said.” But I remembered and had thought about it. It’s hard to discuss if only one of us remembers….

After my sister died, her husband got mad at me and was yelling at me on the phone about my niece. I said I would talk to my niece’s father. My brother in law continued to yell and said that I “twisted his words.” Oh.

Later an old family friend, who has known me since birth and was a huge and kind support to my sister, practically a second parent, got mad at me. He said that I “twisted his words.” I felt grim.

Then my cousin disagreed with me. We were disagreeing by email. She cut me off, saying that I “twisted her words”.

No one not intimately connected with my sister has ever said that I twist words.

So this has been hurting and now my sufi reading led me to go close to the place that hurts. Say yes.

Yes, I twist words. Words and books and songs and music were my safe place in a scary childhood. That is where I went to hide myself. I would play in mansions and palaces and forests and space stations of words. I feel safest in the real woods and sleeping in a tent…. people are what I fear most, that they will hurt me. But I say yes to twisting words: I twist them, I knit them, I paint with them, I play with them, I find joy in them, I misspell them on purpose, I adored Walt Kelley, Edward Lear, Robert Burns, Don Marquis, T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, nonsense poems. Both of my grandfathers loved nonsense poetry and scurrilous poetry and they both memorized it. My father would read the Book of Practical Cats to us, and when I was little he would read Chaucer in Old English. I just threw away his note cards on Old English from college, though I wish I’d mailed them to Princeton. Never mind, I still have 20-30 boxes of my parents’ paper. I am sure that there is something that I can mail to Princeton. They, after all, are still sending him mail at my house. I memorized poetry that my father would quote and then in school, anything that I liked. “What a queer bird the frog are….”

What a queer bird, the frog are
When he sit he stand (almost)
When he walk he fly (almost)
When he talk he cry (almost)
He ain’t got no sense, hardly
He ain’t got no tail, neither, hardly
He sit on what he ain’t got hardly

I loved that poem and copied it laboriously and took it home. That is the first poem that I remember finding on my own out in the wide world, not from my parents.

I twist words. Not with malice, but with play. And that was why it hurt, my sister’s saying that I twisted words with meanness. I can let that go now. If another person who knew her says that I twist words, I can say, “Yes. I love words. I love to play with them,” and if they are angry, I can let them go…..

Let them go…..

Round of “What a queer bird”

Passenger Let her go