When I tell people that I teach high school English, they immediately begin to monitor their own grammar. To provide some relief, I share that teaching seniors about the parts of speech, is as rare as having a grammar emergency in the night. No one calls up desperate for help for a dangling modifier or displaced dash. No, my grammar skills, aren’t a necessity; however, what I do have to offer is a better understanding of rhetoric- both how to use rhetorical skills to communicate, but also how to interpret and better understand another’s language. Simply put, I teach how to manipulate and analyze words.
My ex-husband often complained that I over analyzed his words and didn’t stop “teaching” when I got home. I realize now, that he was often right. But now, I analyze my sons’ words, constantly searching for evidence that they are not managing the stress of having divorced parents. Worrying that their development will be hindered by not having two parents in the house.
So for the last few years, my main focus was not on my students’ grammar usage, but my sons. For instance, I wondered why my twin sons often left out the verb “phrase “can I have” when saying, “Mommy, ap-ple juice, please!” Did this mean they were so accustomed to having to wait for things that they had no time for verbs? When they asked me “for one more hug” before I left for work, did this mean they felt abandoned by their father?
Then I also realize that just like all of us they use words to get what they want. For instance, I often hear what a great “mom” I am when we enter the parking lot of Target. My oldest son knows that his declaration: “I love you” will potentially get him out of trouble for his messy bedroom and that when he tells me that he has “become very frustrated” with his little brothers that I will undoubtedly give him more attention.
Recently, though, I have considered the verb phrase: “putting my dog to sleep.” Actually, putting a dog to sleep is a lie- a comfortable lie. Dog owners are not “putting” the pet anywhere other than in the car and then into the vet’s office.
The infinitive “to sleep” is perhaps the greatest misnomer. We do not rock the pet to a nice slumber after a big meal; we are “putting” them to their death. The pets do not wake up blissfully refreshed. No person wants to witness death which is why we have developed the kind, gentle description of “putting to sleep.” However, who puts the pet “to sleep” might lead us to a better understanding of another verb—to love.
My ex-husband— is “putting” my dog “to sleep” for me. I cannot do it although it is what is right. We dismiss our verb issues even though the usage reveals a lot to us. My ex-husband, often my arch nemesis, loves me sometimes and sometimes is willing to do what I cannot.
Love is messy; love is not always kind. However, now and again love does prevail—often strangely. We make mistakes and then we sincerely try to do better. We learn that always and forever are promises we very much want to keep. Selfishly, though, we fail to keep those promises, even to those we love most. Certainly, we do not do this purposely. Clearly, we want love to prevail. Often, people make mistakes. Sadly, we cannot always forget.
Adverbs, Adjectives, Nouns, Verbs are words that make up our promises. They do not fail; we fail our fearless friends (our parts of speech) who know that:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (NIV)
No, love, never fails us. We sometimes fail each other.
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