Who do you talk to?
It’s not meant to be a facetious question, it’s real enough.
Many of my friends have a spouse that brings them back to reality. The significant other grabs their collar and stops them from falling, unceremoniously, off the Cliffs of Insanity. Sometimes it’s a best friend. Others it’s just someone who understands.
But what if you don’t have that?
I had this discussion with one of my kids recently, and it’s not an easy topic to navigate, nor is it one that’s simple to relieve. My kids, myself, all of us see the world a bit differently after losing my wife, Andrea.
To give you perspective, if you haven’t read here before, my wife, Andrea, passed away in March of 2011. We’d been married 18 years, have four children – two girls and twin boys – and had to adjust. Quickly. Sometimes, I’m finding now, two years later, too quickly.
The same said discussion came to them wanting to talk with someone and realizing that it’s just not that simple. Some friends just want to fix the problem and my child doesn’t want it fixed. They want to tell someone they have a problem. That’s it. Some people have no idea what the last two years have entailed . . . and then comes the inevitable questioning, pitying, kid-glove-handling and the problem dissolves into a torrent of memories, stories, and discussion about what happened two years ago. They don’t want to relive the last couple years, they need help with today.
They have me. They always have me, those four children.
But what if they need to talk with someone about me? What if I am the person at issue?
Welcome to the new regime.
I wish I could say that I knew all the answers. Part of the problem with the last couple years as well was holding onto the strength these kids needed so that they could feel a stable path beneath their feet. What they didn’t realize was that sometimes – this last week(end) in particular – I was laying the cobblestones for the road just before their feet hit. Turns out eventually you miss a few and we stub our toes in the gap.
Some problems – like problems with your Dad – you can’t talk with your Dad about. I tell the kids all that they can, but how do you broach that subject? How do you tell your Dad the you have a problem and . . . well, Dad, you’re kind of part of the problem? Not something you did, not someplace you went, not even people you know. You just have an issue that involves your Dad and you can’t tell him about it?
I had this discussion, and we came to a solution, found a way to work out the issues my children have buried for awhile. But it made me think as well.
I have a couple people I can talk to about my issues. But where they have Dad . . . and I have my parents, sure . . . that person who helped me talk out those problems, that other brain whose process was far different but quite well tooled to work with mine, is gone. I have made decisions, done things, tried ideas and issued orders without having that other, sometimes better, half to help verify I’m on the right track.
Nobody said this was going to be easy. In fact, very few (there are a few, don’t get me wrong) said anything at all. My kids and I all got that “look”. The pitying look. The “I am looking at you different now because I didn’t know all that had happened” look.
The frustrating thing for my kids is that they aren’t different. People are looking at them differently and it drives them bonkers. Where they need an ear they get pity, or a person who makes the conversation about their problems not my kids’ problem.
Before you say “therapy is great” that’s the solution we’re using. Don’t get me wrong.
But sometimes, you need a friend . . . sometimes you just need to talk. More than that, though, you need someone to understand. Even if the ears to listen – hard as it is to accept as their father – don’t belong to their Dad.