Learning. So much learning! And at the centre of it all is the fact that I cannot tell you that I love you, because we just don't do that.
What if I wanted to tell you how sad I am? Or you wanted to tell me? What if that young man ripping the sugar packet open with his teeth is tortured with an enormous pack of dark dogs that you can't see, breathing their hot breath down his neck? It's hard to, out of nowhere explain that, but if you put a hand on his back, he may tell you about how much he hates them. He may just fall apart in your arms.
What if, instead of marching on through the streets, a woman simply stopped, stood, and held her head in her hands. Anybody. Somebody's mother. What would happen? Would you adjust your earbuds and look away, or, would you step in and make contact?
A holy moment perhaps? Anything?
Listen. Could you listen?
This Sunday is the thirteenth anniversary of my father's suicide. I love you. I love you and would you listen?
Every year as I revisit this event, the brutal Hemingway ending that sent shock waves all along the timeline of my life, I try to figure out if we are any further ahead. We are not. We are terrible listeners; stunningly so.
I know a handful of people who are good at it, and one of them I pay. Goddamn it.
No, I mean, REALLY LISTEN.
Stop talking. Stop stepping on my sentences. Now I have to take them home and shake them out, and I can't get away from you fast enough.
Stop preaching. That's a lovely speech you're giving, but the dogs don't care. You know nothing about these dogs, do you? How can you? They don't belong to you. In the middle of your speech, the young man is edging towards the exit. You've made him feel invisible, and ashamed because, well, that was a great speech. Seriously. If he was any sort of a decent human, all of your advice would have worked and the day would be dogless and sunny, right?
Did you hear him at all? I know he didn't speak, but he told you his whole life story in the way he was breathing, gasping. You invalidated his pain in the space of two sentences.
Yes, there are worse scenarios, but her story is unique. She is the only one with her DNA that has that specific history of emotional and environmental influences that have made her life what it is. Telling her to count her blessings will only make her hate you. She has counted her blessings, in fact look at the worn corners from her rifling through them every day. She knows this should be enough, but it isn't and now she has the guilt of this on top of her own torture. She would die if she could.
And that's the problem. So you need to figure out this listening deal.
I lied earlier. I don't revisit the event once a year. I go through it repeatedly. My father is with me every day. I know him better in his death than I did in his life.
I won't go into the details of my childhood, Dear Reader, except to say that my parents were the worst communicators. Add gin to the mix and there was the perfect storm. But I know my father struggled. I know that he tried.
Let's leave it at that.
My God you are beautiful. I love you, do you know that? My heart is full of you.
Did you hear that?