Saturday, January 24, 2009
The strangest thing happened after dinner Thursday. I got an email from my dad that simply said "Wanna use me as a sounding board?"
In our family history, it is traditionally my mom I talk to when I call their house in Texas. My dad and I rarely talk.
I've had conversations like this: I call, and he answers the phone. "Hi, Daddy..." I say, ready to chat. "Well, hello," he says warmly, "Hold on, I'll get your mother." And the phone drops.
Through all the trials of the last year and especially the last couple of months, I have hardly called my parents at all, because I don't want to worry my mother.
It's really hard to fake a bright chipper attitude with her; she is sharply attuned to the slightest change in my voice.
Seriously, she knows I'm sick even before I do. I'll call her, and she'll say sharply, "Are you feeling ok?" I assure her I'm fine, then an hour after the phone call, I'm blowing my nose and noticing the first scratches of a sore throat.
I try to call her primarily when I have good news to announce, an accomplishment of some kind, so she can feel proud of me and my son and rest assured that we're happy and successful. Those moments have been rare lately.
I did finally talk to her last week, and of course I worried her. And she must have talked to my dad.
It was a surprise to hear from him. I was in a good mood when I received his concise little message, after that good day teaching class and gardening with my son. I didn't have anything to complain about at that precise moment, and wasn't sure I wanted to resume the endless cycle of thinking and worrying.
But I thought, what the heck? And I wrote the whole grisly story out for my dad to read, about the break-up of my marriage, my worries about my son, and my worries about finishing school and keeping a roof over our heads.
He wrote back a thoughtful reply and asked questions that pulled more and more thoughts and feelings out of me. He had good practical suggestions, humor, empathy.
It was a long exchange of correspondence that lasted for a couple of days. It was so helpful, and for once I felt like I wasn't all alone in the world. It brings tears to my eyes to think about it now.
I feel like the sun is coming out after a long, long winter.