What are You Trying to Say?

Just before you dropped the call, slammed the door, threw that plate across the room, what single thought went through your brain? Was it a well-composed, carefully crafted sentence, meant to influence and impact someone you care about? Or was it a kind of primal scream, meant to liberate yourself from the mental and emotional anguish of having to deal with… with… that idiot over there? Did it help?

What if time froze in that particular frame? What if that were the last dropped call, the last slam, the last plate in a cupboard that once seemed teeming with plates and cups and bowls? What if the person you wanted to influence went away and the discussion ended, abruptly, permanently, forever? What then?

Relationships end all the time. Family relationships included. Everyone knows about some broken sibling relationship, some father/son breakdown, some daughter who can’t stand the sight of her mother, let alone walk the same sidewalk together. It happens like that all the time. What’s the big deal?

I heard today about a grandparent whose children were factioned. (Is that a word?) At Grandma’s wake, they stood on opposite sides of the casket and never spoke. At the funeral, neither side spoke nor even chose a reading; they let the church volunteers take care of it, rather than try to hold a civil conversation, which they knew was never going to happen. There was no lunch following the service. The burial was silent. They parted once and for all at the gravesite.

Could they have heard each other out? Could they have asked better questions? Could they have let bygones be bygones? Some people experience horrific injustices at the hands of family members. I get that. But more often, it’s some little thing, some disagreement about who was supposed to do something and didn’t, or was supposed to say something and didn’t realize it, or whatever. Usually, if you ask around, the not speaking part was the result of something so minor that sometimes it can’t be pinpointed at all.

So, we don’t eat tuna hotdish together after the funeral. So what? So, what would Grandma want? What are these adults teaching their children? What minor conflict escalated to the point where whole families stood cold shoulder to cold shoulder, buried a parent, and left without a word? Relatives. Blood. Kin. This is how we do loyalty? This is how we do commitment? This is family? Maybe it’s no big deal. But maybe, to the next generation, it might be.

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