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Forward Living: Words, once written, are free to wander

Orient village was in New York City. It all began with my Easter Sunday column. I had praised Paul Murray, the young organist at Church of the Holy Family on East 49th Street. In response I received an email. Here’s part of it: “I am proud to say that this 28-year-old you refer to in ‘Memories surface during Easter Mass’ is my dear nephew Paulie. … His mastery of the organ leaves us in awe. … Reading your ‘Memories’ I felt as though I was a member of the celebration that day …”

On May 18 I got another another email: “As an ordinary parishioner of the Church of the Holy Family, I had the opportunity to read your article, ‘Memories surface during Easter Mass.’ I identify with you that you do not fully understand how old you are. I am just really trying not to rush, taste everything, learn from all. Your article gave me the opportunity to open my eyes …”

How did a parishioner in New York City read The Suffolk Times? Easy. All it took was a proud aunt from Long Island who reads The Suffolk Times and sends it to her talented nephew, the organist in the Big City. And, I guess, it also calls for the pastor of the church, the Rev. Robert Robbins, to insert it in the program of the Mass.

I knocked on the door of the rectory. I asked for a copy of the program. Indeed, among a few inserts, there it was, my Easter column on pale yellow paper. There was also a letter from the Archbishop of New York, the Most Reverend Timothy Dolan. The Suffolk Times was in blessed company.

Words have a life of their own. We speak them, write them, sing them. Once that is done what follows is out of our control. They are free. They can pathetically fail or they can change the world, or affect one person only. This is where I come in. I may bring pleasure or sadness, inspire or entertain a few people. With Mark Twain or Montaigne it’s the multitude. Ah well, I’ll be happy with what I get.

At the Orient Service Center a man asked me, “Are you Gazarian? I read your column. I have one taped to my refrigerator.” This was over a year ago but I still remember it. That what I write is on someone’s refrigerator! That’s as good as it gets. And to be read by unknown parishioners, I’ll take that, too. It was totally unexpected. I knew nothing of it until the email arrived. Divine providence, I say! You never know where your words travel. Who will tell whom to read what. It can be a wild ride or a peaceful stroll. Either way it’s mission accomplished. Even for just one little reader.

Every year thousands of books hit the road, written by thousands of lonely authors hoping for best sellers’ glory. The columnist’s trade has no such aim. We enter people’s homes for a brief visit. We’ll be read over scrambled eggs and bagels. Breakfast might be more fun with us or we might provoke anger. But we never know the welcome we get. Unless an email or a reader tells us at the gas station or the post office, “Say, I loved your article last week …” After more than 10 years of writing this column I still get excited when people tell me, “I like your work.” I wish I could say I don’t need hugs and kisses. But we are all hungry for this kind of food. Let’s accept it without vanity.

I don’t know what my next column will be about. I may not know until a few days before deadline. What I do know is that my dog, Nina, will be under my desk lying over the tangle of cords that bring life to lamps and word processor. I also know that Nina can with one motion of her paws disconnect in a second my electronic lifeline and send my words on the screen back to the darkness they came from. And as simple as those words are, it’s always a struggle to find them again inside my head. It’s happened before and it’s not a pretty moment in spite of the dog’s romance-novel eyes.

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: [email protected]