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Once and Future Conversations

Picture a Conversation ElephantsOur daughter-in-law jokes that our newborn granddaughter is part baby elephant. At four weeks, Olivia has a full repertoire of snorts and snuffles, back of the throat raspings and full-throated cries that trumpet, “Somebody better feed me and change me, NOW!”  Olivia and her devoted mom are embarking upon a mother-daughter conversation that will last their entire lives.

As for me, one of her devoted grandmothers, I look forward our own conversations.  I adored that brief window of my kids’ verbal development as they acquired language but not the filters that kept their words, and thus their thoughts, hidden. I savored their funny phrasings and crystalline insights, all the more stunning for coming from such wee beings.

Look, Mommee! Olivia’s father said to me some three decades ago.  Bubbles!  IMG_1769He was pointing to a set of iridescent crystal goblets we’d received as a wedding gift. What poetry to see the world through my son’s eyes. There was the time he pulled me to the window to point out the falling snow.  “Look, Mommee.  Doesn’t the snow make you think of God?” “Oh yes, little one. Yes, indeed.”  I thought then.

 

IMG_1771What kinds of conversations will Olivia and I share?  Will we read about Noah’s ark  and imagine together how God might have dreamt up the giraffe and the peacock? Whence came the idea for kangaroos and starfish? Or why sunflowers have dozens of petals and tulips so few? What will be her talk on the changing leaves as fall overtakes summer? Or what it feels like to  jump in a pile of leaves or build her first snowman? As time passes, our conversations may well turn to deeper issues — squabbles with friends,  frustration with her parents’ sage rules and boundaries, broken hearts and promises.

But until then, I savor Olivia’s cries and whimpers, the outsized snuffles coming from one so new.  The conversations will be here before I know it.

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A “Sprained” Conversation

What a blessing to have use of my thumb!

What a blessing to have use of my thumb!

I fell recently and my wrist, while not broken, was still hurting. The hand surgeon confirmed that nothing was fractured and sent me to the local medical supply place for a brace.  It was a long wait in a place devoted to the old-age infirmities that can befall us — adult diapers, walkers, splints, crutches and more. I signed in and counted the names above mine. It was going to be a long wait.

I picked up a magazine and took a seat next to a woman who was also waiting to be seen. Minutes passed.  Long minutes.  Then a quarter of an hour that turned into a half hour. The woman began talking to herself not so sotto voce,  “I’ve been waiting over an hour to be seen. I KNOW I didn’t have an appointment. But I didn’t KNOW I was going to break my wrist today.” Then her mutterings escalating to curses. I tried to voice commiseration that I hoped would ease the tension. Truth be told, she was just saying what the rest of us were thinking; we just had better filters in place. But I grew uneasy. Would she go from words physical venting?  Did she have a gun? Had she broken her dominant hand?  Could she shoot left-handed?

The receptionist said they were moving as quickly as they could.  Things quieted down, and then I heard crying.  The woman’s body language projected utter defeat —  shoulders slumped, head in her hands, completely withdrawn. Through her cries she whimpered that she was in pain. That it was her twins’ birthday and she needed to get home to celebrate, but how could she make them a cake with a broken hand?  In that moment, the whole drama shifted from a one-person play to a scene in which we all had a part — we were all in some degree of pain; we all had somewhere else to be; we were all wondering how we would handle the physical tasks that, pre-injury, we did on autopilot.  Again, this woman was projecting what all of us were confronting within.  And for this poor woman it was just too much. She was overwhelmed, and simply could no longer cope. Or maybe she was coping better than the rest of us by expressing exactly what she was feeling and facing (minus the cursing, mind you.)

So I started a conversation.  Tell me about your kids.  How old are they? How did you hurt yourself? Turns out her kids were 17, a boy and a girl.  Like me, she had taken a spill in a moment of distraction. She confessed to being an impatient person.  I said the same and joked that the universe was probably testing me by giving me a situation requiring patience.  Trying not to sound too preachy I gently suggested that maybe this was an opportunity for us both to try and go with the flow.  And because I write an advice column, I couldn’t help but add that at 17, her kids could wait a bit. Her physical well-being had to take priority so that she could be there for them later.   A minute or two passed; it was finally her turn. I didn’t see her again.

We are so wrapped up in our own worlds, our own hurts, our own lives. Random conversations are beautiful reminders that we are not as separate as we think and that sometimes, simply talking to one another helps to mend what is broken, yet unseen.

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