ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

A MATTER OF OPINION

Opinionated?

Me?

Opinionated?

Never mind that I’ve spent the biggest part of the past 15 years using this forum to share with readers my unsolicited opinions on everything from aging to Zen (which I don’t really understand, but that hasn’t prevented me from having a thought or two on the subject).  I like to think of myself as open-minded, understanding and tolerant of all points of view.   The last thing any reasonable person would call me is “opinionated” (well, no – the last thing any reasonable person would call me is “handy,” because I’m sort of a klutz when it comes to handling tools and stuff . . . but I digress).

But there it was in my daughter Beth’s high school essay, which she asked me to edit for her last night: “My parents are very . . . you know . . . opinionated.”

Opinionated?  Me?

Now, I can understand Beth referring to her mother as opinionated.  Anita comes from a long line of opinionated people.  She can trace her opinion-alogy back to the guy who reminded Queen Isabella of Spain that the world was, after all, flat and so it probably wasn’t a good idea to fund this Columbus fellow.  So it’s in her blood.  She can’t help it.

And in Anita it is an endearing thing.  You always know where you stand with her.  She has a clear view of right and wrong, and she is absolutely fearless in standing up for what she believes to be right.  It is one of the things that first attracted me to her, probably because I am so NOT that way.

In other words, I’m NOT opinionated.

Sure, my mother was sort of . . . well, you know . . . opinionated, as was her father before her.  That line up there – “you always know where you stand with her” – I stole it from my Mom’s funeral.  And, come to think of it, my Grandpa Arrowsmith’s.  But while my sisters sort of tend toward the Arrowsmith way of thinking (years ago Kathy actually had the nerve to think that the Beatles were better than the Beach Boys, and we argued about it for HOURS), my brothers and I are purely Walkers.  We are gentle, approachable, even-tempered and open.

Well, OK.  Dick and Bob are that way.  Bud was more like Mom.  A salesman who was in his car a lot during the day, he liked to listen to talk radio, and when someone would say something with which he disagreed he would call me and we would go off on the subject – and the poor, misguided, misinformed caller – until we both got it out of our respective systems.

But we did it patiently.  Kindly.  Tolerantly.  Open-mindedly.

OK, who am I kidding?  Maybe I AM opinionated – a little.  I’m only opinionated about the things I am absolutely, positively, 100 percent sure of.  Everything else . . . well, who really cares about auto racing, anyway?

But did Beth have to put that in her essay?  While it’s true that when you read the entire context of the paper, her reference to her “opinionated” parents is pretty positive, it was still sort of eye-opening to read that she perceives us that way.  And it’s a little disconcerting to know that her perception is now out there for all her English class to see.  In a way it’s sort of like . . . oh, I don’t know . . . a newspaper columnist who writes about his family and shares their experiences, thoughts and feelings with the world.

Yeah, I know – the shoe is finally on the other foot.

And I don’t like the fit.

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— © Joseph Walker

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"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.