Have The Conversation

A painting I did twenty years ago of my dad. I call him Columbus.

A painting I did twenty years ago of my dad. I call him Columbus.

When Bob died I wrote his wife, Ruby, a note saying that I’d give anything to have another conversation with Bob. Just one more conversation.

When Jim wrote to tell me of Doug’s passing, we had an email exchange.

I signed off the email with this phrase: “Yet another conversation I will never have….” Jim answered with a warm reminiscence of Doug, a recounting of their meeting as young teachers, watching Doug navigate and ultimately heal the psychological wounds from war. Jim signed off with this thought:

War is not just hell.  It is eternal hell.  Particularly for those with first hand experience. Why the race continues to tolerate it may be the greatest mystery. Another conversation I will never have with Doug.

I remember in vivid detail the last conversation I had with Tom. He was already sliding into the hell of his dementia and knew it. He desperately wanted to tell me a story, something that was vitally important for me to know though he did not know why. I sat attentive in his small cabin home as he told me the story of the lost boy, a story that together we’d spent years developing into a play. I’d heard the story a thousand times and he no longer remembered. He forgot everything but the imperative to tell me the story, to transmit the history to me. So we enacted the ritual as our final conversation.

Columbus fishing at his 80th birthday celebration.

Columbus fishing at his 80th birthday celebration.

Many years ago I traveled home to spend time with my dad. I wanted to know who he was and felt as if I’d missed it, as if I didn’t really know the person behind the role. He was generous and vulnerable and spent three days with me answering all my questions, sharing the inner sanctum of his thought and being. It was the greatest gift I have ever been given and, at the same time, the greatest gift I have given myself: I asked if he would spend time with me.

One of the things I learned during those days with my dad is that there will always be the yearning for one more conversation. There is no bottom to the magic and mystery of the people that we love and who give order and richness to our world. This year I am learning that although there will always be the yearning for just one more conversation, there will of necessity be a last exchange. And, because that is an inescapable truth, there is nothing more important on this earth than to take the time, make the space, to ask, “How are you doing? What’s happening in your world?”

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One Response

  1. That’s a beautiful painting of your Dad. You captured so much of his spirit.

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