6.18.2012

Handle With Care :: Communication


If writing is my therapy, does that make you my therapist?  Nah.  I'll let you off the hook and in fact, I struggle to let anyone "in", so please be available, but not insistent.

I've written about my father many times before.  He brags that he's always in my blog.  If that's the case, it's his fault for raising two daughters who adore and respect him.

My father has begun the fight for his life.  He has acute myeloid leukeumia and is embarking on a month (plus) intensive chemo regime which will be followed by a bone marrow transplant.  Those two things will lead to a cure... or kill him.  Thankfully, I have a sneaking suspicion, that my dad fights dirty... so look out white blood cells!

Dad, if this blog post makes you die of embarrasment, well, you're welcome.  I figure that's a hell of a lot more pleasant then dying of leukemia.

I'd like to share some thoughts and reflections about my dad.  Things I might say after he's gone, things I want to share before that happens... may it be many many years away.  'Cause that's the curse of life.  You bury your loved ones or they bury you.  There's no escaping it.  While tempting, you cannot live life without relationships, you must face losing and being lost.  The thought of losing a parent makes me shrivel, convulse, vomit & sob, yet that is the natural way of things.  While I want to protect MY daughters from any and all pain, I know that they will survive my death... I could not survive theirs.  God willing, that is the way life should work.

My dad and I share similarities that go past our thin lips, bird legs and warped sense of humor.  Today I want to talk about our communication:  We can be SILENT.  But in that silence, my dad and I communicate.  We can be silent in joy, sadness, apprehension, day dreams, concentration, fatigue, annoyance, hunger and more often than not, simply because we're engrossed in books.  I understand his silence and feel comfortable with it.  In turn, he respects mine, though probably wishes I'd channel that gift more often.

In the absolute terror I feel regarding the prospect of losing my dad, I feel silence.  He, more than anyone else, understands that.

Rarely socially acceptable, silence is an art.  I have learned to use my acting skills and most often, I "act" sociable.  From him, I've learned how to be the life of the party, how to make people laugh and how to converse.  As he ages and struggles with his health, I've seen my dad slip into silence more often.  I know that this is often misinterpreted, but fortunatley, he doesn't seek the approval of others.

He's got a firmer grip on understanding others and communication than any expert I've ever come across.  For example, my father understands the lasting impact of words.  Not that he never says a cross word, I'm not talking about being cross.  Hell, it's a proven fact that no friend of mine was ever a houseguest without being "corrected" by my father.  There are correct ways of doing things and of being and he isn't shy about reteaching those things.  Just leave a tool out on his toolbench... I double dog dare you!

In particular, my husband and I were recently talking about how my dad (and mom) are extremely careful never to say anything that will cause a fissure in our relationships with them.  Sure, they give us advice and gentle nudges, but never ever ultimatums or controversial opinions.  This trait used to tick me off when they would share concerns about exboyfriends (could have saved me so much time!), but they never say anything that would cause me to feel judged/uncomfortable in the future.  So, if I had married one of those boyfriends, they wouldn't have to hope I forgot their condemning words.  They would simply support me and pray for me.

My dad is a natural guide.  Not a counselor, not a fortune teller, but a planter of seeds.  He has incredible insight, but is so nonchalant about how he shares it, it takes an "A HA!" moment to realize he guided me.  I can't think of a single major decision I've made without first fishing around for his insights.  The beauty of his gift is that he is adaptable.  If I don't follow his lead, he is still there to walk my path with me and continue to clear the way.  He's not too proud or opinionated to let me make my own way.  I can't think of a better gift to give your child.

While part of me has a firm understanding of my father and could write a multi-volume set of his life stories (oh wait, the movie "Big Fish" was already written... perhaps I'll write the sequel?), part of me wants to quiz him and question him.  About what?  I'm not sure, but I have so much more to learn from him.

So that is what I want to leave you with today:
TRY SILENCE.  Spend sometime within yourself.  Think, reflect, observe.  Do it somewhere where you usually carry the conversation.  How does it affect the dynamics in that setting?  Silence is a gift and requires a hefty self-confidence (anyone else guilty of always jumping in to fill awkward pauses?  I've simply got to stop doing that!  I could be rushing past something profound.).

TRY SILENCE.  When the words forming in your mouth will cut someone down, anger them, make them feel judged or alienate them... try silence.  Sometimes we do need to be controversial or voice our anger, but rarely.  Very rarely.  Words are permanent.  Perhaps not tangible, but permanent none the less.  When we take away someone's option for independent decision making, we teach them that they are incapable.  Use gentle nudges, open arms, acceptance & even silence in interactions with your loved ones.  It will show them the depths of your love AND give them confidence in their abilities.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, Julie your are blessed with a wonderful father and doubly blesses because you know and understand that very fact.

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  2. Lots of love, hugs, prayers to your father and family. I like how you've described your father. He's not one to speak just to fill in the blanks. He speaks when he has something worthwhile to say. Something we can all learn from!

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  3. Wonderful reflections, Julie! A great tribute to your dad. Love you both!

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  4. What a wonderfully written post. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

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  5. Thank you Julie. Your Dad was very, very moved by your words. I learned how so much about how to accept people from my Mom and Dad. They loved all my friends. Gma tried hard to never insult Gpa in front of other women. Gpa took interest in people and would go out of his way to find connections with them. I'm glad that maybe, just maybe, I could relate those traits. Love you.

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  7. What beautiful thoughts! You have a real gift for writing and obviously a beautiful relationship with your father. We are keeping all of you in our prayers. XO

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  8. There are so many emotions running through me right now. Admiration of your father, whom I love dearly. Anger at cancer. Sorrow that he has to enter into this fight. And certainty that he will face it with strength and his usual wry humor.

    I will keep you and your family in my prayers and please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

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