The Art of Conversation

Wasted Words by the Allman Brothers Band from the LP “Brothers and Sisters”

Tonight I got home soaking wet and dripping with rain.  I got caught in a quick and neat flash storm leaving a Midtown restaurant  walking back to my car which I had to park more than a block away.  You’d think I’d be freezing, angry and shivering, but the reality is I was actually oblivious to the storm.  Water was dripping down my face, the streetlights making the drops have a slightly greenish, eerie glow, but it wasn’t something that bothered me, not even the acrid feeling of the water getting into my eyes.

The reason I’d been OK with the storm is that I’d left a restaurant outside a Midtown Sacramento strip in an old brick warehouse building.  I had left work to meet a friend, initially to have a drink, but ended up having a burger.  I know what your’e thinking, he’s meeting people, going out, all that.  You’d be wrong.  I honestly hadn’t seen this person since my previous job and while I’m at another station she’s now working for someone in politics.  My curiosity was getting the better of me and I was dying to know how she ended up avoiding television and going into politics.

What I hadn’t realized at the time was that I was completely unaware of how different it had been the last year.  I had not really had any adult conversation.  Sure, I have friends and Andrea’s family who but inevitably, when you get around family and people with kids, that’s where your conversation starts to veer.  Tonight, though, I had all kinds of other topics.  Politics, television, life, living in other countries, all of it.  It seemed easy.  We talked and I think we must have been there a couple hours.  The down side was the fact that I think I must have dominated the conversations.  I walked in wanting full well to listen more than to talk.  I had questions and wanting to get caught back up when I arrived at the restaurant.  Unfortunately, I think I started talking and like a kid hopped up on sugar, I couldn’t stop.  The documentary I’m working on, the article I wrote for Air & Space, what it was like at my last job, what it was like from her perspective, all of it.

I wasn’t happy that I’d dominated the conversation.  I kept trying to steer it back and it kept getting steered back.

But at the end of the day I laughed, smiled and talked about lots of things . . . but not the death of my wife.  I talked about having lost her, about having 4 kids, about living with my kids, about the juggling I do, but there was no grieving.  It was one of the few times nobody had asked just how awful it was and what happened.  Not because it was being avoided, but because we were just trying to catch up on what happened in the last couple years.

I felt bad, though, about the fact that I’d spent these couple hours at a restaurant and not with the kids.  Noah had his sister, Abbi, text me once and ask if I was close to home.  I’d only been at the restaurant and hour and 7pm is usually the time I come home.  I don’t know if they thought that I was having trouble getting home; if I was having issues with the car; or if they worried that it’s only been a year and I was somehow on a “date”.  A couple things should ease their mind, at least I hope they will.

First, I’m still raw from the last year.  I don’t think people understand what happens when you meet someone that you connect with so completely.  I fell in love with Andrea, it was natural, and I fell hard.  Adding to that, though, is the fact that we had gone through the amazing, passionate initial attraction and met the point where we were just with each other every day, able to talk about everything and having the most natural conversation every night.  She was who I talked with first in the morning and first person I called when I got good or bad news.  It’s hard to be that tied to another person and have them ripped away.  Lose that person for more than 20 years you just don’t really go back to “dating” again.  I can’t, anyway.  Had I been wanting to go on a date I would never have mentioned my wife.  Had I been on a “date” there would be no way in hell or high water I’d have let the other person pay for dinner.  I know times have probably changed and the world is changing with it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to allow that.  Chivalry isn’t really dead and I’ve told my daughters the same thing: their dates should pay for your dates, not you.  My sons as well.

No, I cannot say I was even looking for a date.  What I was looking for was to catch up with a friend.  I was trying to find out details about what happened after my friend and my paths diverged.

But at the end of the day, the phone rang, my kids asking me when I might come home.  I did say to the kids that I’d be late, maybe a couple hours.  Still, they called.

The funny thing is, I was smiling and ignoring the rain as I said before.  It wasn’t just the adult conversation, though.  I missed that, sure.  I write, every night, but it’s not the same.  It’s not the same as talking to someone and hearing what their life is like.  Maybe my one-sided conversations here are what caused my inane over-abundance of conversations domination.  But beyond the need for conversation I got that final call, in the rain, on the way to the car, and my daughter was telling me how she’d not only tried out of a one-act play at school but she’d gotten one of the main leads.  Moving from a child’s play to the adult one-act is an amazing thing.

I have never been so happy for my daughter, who has had such a hard time adjusting to school.  The thing that I did miss more than anything was the fact that when I got that great news the person I desperately wanted to tell isn’t there any more.  A year ago that would have ruined my night.  Tonight, I was more proud than depressed.  That was the difference.  The art of conversation is an activity I haven’t mastered as well as I should.  I am not a great conversationalist and I’m not as great a person as I wish I could be.

I miss my wife, but I also miss my conversations.  It doesn’t change the fact that I have an amazing group of friends and most amazing the four kids who do tremendous things.  The art of conversation is amazing.  It’s also a reminder of what I lost.  The difference is, last night, that loss didn’t ruin my night.

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