The most peaceful days of my life were the days when I was almost half a world away from my biological family. My husband wishes I wouldn’t feel this way or, since I do feel this way, he wishes I wouldn’t proclaim it for all the world to hear. I’m sure you know how I feel about that. They are not bad people. There are a lot of them. Over the years, their numbers have increased to include spouses, significant others, former spouses, children, grandchildren, kits, cats, sacks and wives until I find myself wishing they’d all take a hike and go to St. Ives.
They love to talk for the joy of hearing themselves speak. Being the eldest, I’ve spent more time in linguistic practice, which has resulted in a lack of fascination for speech. They call to talk about nothing. I have received phone calls when they have been brushing their teeth, expecting me to hang on while they swish and spit. No topic is too inconsequential for my ears. Imposition of a strictly enforced radio silence has become necessary. I don’t want to hear another peep.
My husband happened to be in my office at the end of the day last week (the end of the day last week– some days seem like weeks) to hear my dialogue in a 40 minute business call that presented untold personal revelations. He hadn’t realized the nature of the calls that fill my day. I am not a clinician. I am an administrator, working remotely, in a service industry that could never be misconstrued as a place to deposit personal sorrows. Last night, I received another business call filled with intimate detail. He expressed surprise at the things people confide in me. I don’t know why they do it, it’s happened all of my life. In the past month, I’ve been entrusted with pain and grief that forces it’s host to seek a receptive outlet. My ears have become the repository for disclosures from an adult child whose mother became suddenly ill and made a hasty exit, an elderly couple acknowledging terminal illness and anticipatory grief, and a parent trying to navigate through a world without the adult child who was supposed to live a lot longer.
I understand that people speak to be heard. Everyone needs confirmation. I have a duty to honor a confidence by hearing it, every word and nuance. I suppose that my siblings feel justified in their need to fill my finite seconds in the world with phone calls comprised of yawns, dental tasks, and even television viewing. I would be conceited to believe they miss me, when what they miss is confirmation of their existence. “Hello, hello, hello…am I still here? If nobody hears me, am I still here?”