It is a family charm common to Buckleys -- not only a sign of good manners but of good breeding.
Like so many of my generation, I had known Mr. Buckley from afar nearly all my life. In fact, Mr. Buckley, as seems the proper salutation (didn't he once write a column about the odd habit of perfect strangers calling him "Bill?"), was an instrument of torture during my childhood.
That is, my father made me watch "Firing Line" each week. In fact, Buckley's talk show was among the few programs that were considered acceptable viewing in a household where television was verboten except briefly on weekends. Other approved activities included reading and, of course, reading.
I remember thinking as I squirmed glaze-eyed through these 30-minute episodes of men talking in a language not my own: To what mortal sin do I owe this dreadful fate?
Looking back, I'm certain that my father hoped some of that intellect would seep in, that some of those multisyllabic words might take root, and that through some magic of telepathy or osmosis, I might absorb some knowledge. Indeed, I was involuntarily privy to conversations I now would willingly replay between Buckley and such lights as John Kenneth Galbraith, Ronald Reagan, Benjamin Spock, Otto Preminger, Walker Percy, Timothy Leary, Clare Booth Luce, Murray Kempton, Albert Gore, Barry Goldwater, Steve Allen, John Ashbrook, Dick Gregory and scores of others.
Quite an education after all.
Now Buckley has joined many of those and centuries of others in the great debate hall above. Lord knows, I hope they have dictionaries in heaven.