The Edmond Sun

September 13, 2013

AS I SEE IT: Getting the last word continues to be powerful force

Marjorie Anderson
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — “Did not ... did too ... did not ... did too.” That’s my kids in the back seat of my brand new ’63 Oldsmobile and they’re driving me nuts. The bickering began maybe 50 miles back but it seems like it’s gone on for hours. They’ve forgotten what started the feud, but they’re both hell bent on having the last word.

Last words can be powerful. Families rush home to the bedside of a loved one in hope of hearing their final words, maybe a special blessing to cherish and pass on to generations yet unborn. And that’s where our involvement with The Last Word begins. Not at the deathbed but in the delivery room.

If the newborn’s name hasn’t been agreed upon ante partum, any postpartum conflict must be resolved on the spot and the last word recorded on the birth certificate. Names are important. “Baby Doe” won’t do it, not even if the alternative is an unpronounceable six-syllable word starting with X.

To be the winner of the last word can be a trivial ego booster as I’m sure it was for my kids. It can be as powerful as a deathbed blessing, or it might be a last-minute necessity as it was for Baby Doe. Last words also can be as formidable as “Guilty!” or “Custody denied!” when spoken before the gavel drops; and they can be exhilarating, as in “You’ve got the job!” or “The tumor is benign.”

On the social scene, you might have encountered someone whose lips parodied every word your own lips were forming and actually gave voice to your last six or eight words as you spoke them. If that’s a mental disorder I apologize for admitting how much I hate it, but I don’t think it is. More than likely the mime is highly competitive and hoping to tie with you for the last word if she can’t get there first.

An irresistible craving for the last word is as old as time: e.g., “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” I once had a professor who would steeple his hands beneath his chin and tap his fingers together as he intoned: “That is a question not to be asked.” What a wise man he was. Scholars have debated the angel issue since the 11th century and there’s been no last word to date.

That’s not going to stop you, though. Just don’t discuss politics, sex, religion or the economy with anyone who starts out, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up.” Even then, though, you still can have the last word if you mutter it under your breath as you’re leaving. You’d think my kids could have figured that out when I was still hauling them around in my ’63 Oldsmobile.


MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.