These days

These days, I have been haunted by the lines of a T.S. Eliot poem that I read in the 7th grade. I don't remember the name of the poem (it was "The Hollow Men") or anything else about the poem except these lines:

"This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper."

I remember my 7th grader-self thinking,
"No! That can't happen! I won't let that happen!"
I was imaging war, bombs, aliens—not a virus.

When my mother was dying, I remember asking her how she felt about dying. We didn't have the best of relationships. I expected her to be very upset and to blame someone—maybe me.

She said, "Well, what are you going to do?" That was a surprise to me.

Now that I am close to 70 and very close to the age my mother was when she died, I'm beginning to understand the "whimper."

There was an article that appeared in my newsfeed about how to get along with your partner in the times of the Coronavirus. Somehow I lost the article but I do remember #1 was:
"Communicate. Communicate. Communicate."

My husband and I do communicate very well 95% of the time—except when he can't hear me and I suggest he get his hearing tested and he says I talk too quietly. The last part may be true, but I have witnessed him not hearing other people correctly.

And one more thing in the communication department—I have a pet peeve that has become amplified lately. When I hear people "uptalk," it is like fingernails on a chalkboard. Uptalk is the way people speak when every sentence sounds like a question. It may be a generational affectation, but I have heard many people on the radio putting an interrogative tone at the end of almost every sentence.

My husband is aware of this peeve of mine and at times he makes a slip. For example: we were riding our bicycles one morning and he said,
"I haven't decided if I am going on a bike ride tonight?
It depends on if Butch is going?"
And I replied,
"Are you asking me a question?"
He said,
"I'm not going to talk to you." as he peddled away.
"That's great." I said as I went on my own way.

Uptalking or HRT (high-rise terminals) is not a new thing I know. There have been articles about how and when and where it started. In the early 70s, when I was in school in Chicago, I remember meeting a guy who used the interrogative lift. He was from the midwest and I was from New England. I had never heard people talk that way before. Because I had a crush on him, it didn't bother me.

Now it does bother me. Uptalkers sound like they are asking for approval. You are required to nod or respond in agreement. Don't be afraid to take a stand people!

I read that in 1958, when someone asked Eliot if he would rewrite his famous four lines again, he said "No."

And if T.S. Eliot was around today, would he rewrite his lines now?

"This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper?"

I will end with a whimper.

Kathleen Packlick lives and works in Houston, Texas.