“I’ll get up with you when I get back.” Those words were overheard in the airport as a traveler wrapped up a phone call prior to boarding his flight. I was not intentionally eavesdropping on the conversation, but cell phones have an incredible power to make people think they enjoy a veil of privacy. It is as though they live in their own private phone booth that accompanies them wherever they go, like a Dr. Who knockoff. Or they at least have a continual right to step into veiled secrecy, like Superman when he needed a quick wardrobe change. Shielded from annoying mundane details of life they conduct their affairs as if no one can overhear their words (or music or movie or . . .). His conversation invaded my airspace; my radar did what radars do. It intercepted the message. “I’ll get up with you when I get back.”
That wasn’t the first time I have heard that phrase, but this time it made me laugh. What, exactly does “I’ll get up with you when I get back” mean? Is it a threat, a bully’s less eloquent version of an Arnold Schwarzenegger line from the movies? Was it part of Jesus’ response when he answered that “nobody knows the day and hour of my return . . . but I’ll get up with you when I get back?”
The statement leaves much room for speculation. Is it the promise of a social call, or a date perhaps? Could it be intimate, of a nature not suited for this blog? I know someone who recently returned to his wife after several months of military duty outside the country. Their reunion was a happy one, judging by the social media photos. Was that some version of being “gotten up with?”
Thinking about it in a 21st century context, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if the other person didn’t want to “gotten up with?” You know someone will eventually raise that question. Perhaps it seems like an invasion of space or a crossing of boundaries. Does the party to be gotten up with have a say in the matter? Could “getting up with you” hurt? Might it have any side effects? Does it require any advance preparation? I confess that I don’t know and since I won’t be there then this guy returns and commences the “getting up with,” I won’t likely find the answer any time soon.
The whole experience reminded me that I love regional colloquialisms. They make perfect sense as long as you know what they mean, but can sound ridiculous if you do not have a frame of reference. Another that has recently rattled around my mind is “A word, please?” It is merely a shorter variation of “May I have a word with you please?” I blame its resurgence in my thoughts on my decision to rewatch the series “Justified.” Based in Harlan, KY, people in that series are forever wanting to have “have a word” with one another. Trust me. It is generally not to exchange pleasantries. Often, they are on the verge of experiencing what my Daddy had in mind when he’d threaten to “jerk a knot in my tail if I didn’t behave.” I never knew what tail he was referring to and fortunately, always avoided the impending “jerking.” Usually, just having a word sufficed.
Since I have retired, and particularly when I am at home, I have noticed a resurgence of language patterns from my region of origin. I don’t know exactly when or how I learned them to begin with, and I don’t know where they have been stored the last thirty years. Just yesterday, I answered Judi that the thing she was searching for was “over yonder.” I can’t remember the last time I used that term, though it once was a regular feature in my vocabulary. It is a great word because it can mean anywhere but where you are. In fact, you don’t really have to know where something is to use it. You merely know where it is not. It is not here. It is yonder – over yonder if the distance is very far.
It is almost as though I need to intentionally remember to wear my good grammar suit when I go out in public any more. I think it is sign of uber-relaxation that emerges with some combination of age and retirement. Not Uber the car service; but uber- as in a German prefix or preposition meaning “over” or “above” or “supreme.” Retirement is a great opportunity to not be ruled by someone else’s decisions about propriety and convention. Not every rule in the language game was influenced by the most smartest cookie in the box, but rather the loudest or simply the last one to be voiced. Conforming to those rules may be important at certain stages for some, and even every stage for others; but then again, there may come a point where it just ain’t that important. That may be where the uber-relaxed state of being is taking me. The more important thing, it seems to me, is clear communication. If that can happen, I think you are entitled to whatever accent or short cut you take to get there. Lord knows there are more than enough articulate, eloquent individuals in this world who are terrible communicators despite being well-spoken and gramatically correct.
Turns out, I received an answer to the “get up with you” expression. “Ask and you shall receive,” as they say. I have known for better than a year that after 60+ years I would have another chance to be a really hip guy. I have spent the last several months feeling like my shock absorbers were shot, and I’m not referring to my truck. After exploring alternatives like acupuncture and getting a second opinion on the initial x-rays, I made the decision to have both hips replaced simultaneously. Apparently, double hip replacement is still not that common. Most have nearly passed out at the thought but my surgeon never blinked when I asked if he would consider doing both at the same time. After having completed the surgery, he informed my wife, “His hips were crap. He made a good decision to do both at once.” Hip, hip, hooray for new body parts! If you’re looking for a positive reference for an ortho-surgeon, just ask me.
My answer to the “get up with you” question started soon after I arrived for my surgery. A familiar face of one who had served as a nurse when I was pastor of the New Castle meeting was on duty in another department that day. He had learned of my scheduled procedure and made a point to drop by for a word. (Victor, if you’re reading this, now would be a good time to call Lydia over and point out you’ve been included in the blog!). A potted mum sent by a Friends meeting in the area was waiting in my room when I returned from the recovery area. There was also a cheery, promotional coffee mug with freshly cut flowers from the ortho team who provided surgery and support. Sure, I will pay for that mug somewhere along the way, but what a thoughtful gesture! A few Friends stopped in to check on my condition a couple of hours after my time under the knife. Once home two days later, visitors bearing treats like conversation, pumpkin bread, and even a pasta shell dish for dinner found their way to our door. A couple volunteered several hours of their time to hang out with me “just in case” so that Judi could keep a commitment she had with a community group. Emails, cards, and text messages continue to arrive regularly as different ones monitor my progress and offer their assistances. As I drafted this blog post, I received a phone call from a friend who endured a single hip surgery 20+ years ago and called to encourage me in the rehabilitation process.
I don’t know what my fellow traveler at the airport had in mind for his contact. But my sense is these various responses have answered what it means to “get up with someone when you get back.” It can be a simple follow-up or transaction of business, such as a salesperson circling back around in the hope of closing a deal. But it can also be a bedrock contribution to the provision of care and the creation of community that sustains us in the best and worst of times. It is an attentiveness or a coming alongside that lingers long enough to connect, to be useful, and to consider what is needed in the moment. It helps in small ways simply by being there and can be the glue that holds good relationships together.
As to whether this surgery finally will transform me into a really hip dude, only time will tell. Get up with me next time you have the chance and we will see!