“Thank you for being with me! Talking to you has helped and pulled me out of my condition”. I was taken by surprise when I heard the words. I did not see it coming. It was a happy feeling, nonetheless. That made my day! It is not often someone who is much older, much wiser and someone who I respect should say such kind words.
In the moment when I was overjoyed by the positive changes in him, I thanked the Almighty for giving me the opportunity to help him in my own little way. In retrospect it was my request, but I never knew that it was going to be him. It was just a general, little wish; done without thinking… all in the name of wanting to apply what I had learnt through AMC.
Remember a few months back I had written about Uncle who is ‘different’ and challenged, whom I always observe from my car window? Due to a number of factors (cowardice being one of them), especially my safety being the most important, I abandoned the idea to get ‘into Uncle’s world’. Subconsciously I was wishing for the same chance but with someone who speaks the language I understand and of course, a person who do not pose any physical threats.
Lo and behold, the opportunity knocked hard on my door!
For the longest time, my visits to anywhere are never strictly scheduled. I try my best to visit the family at least once a month and during which, only both of us would talk for hours, oblivious to our surrounding. Our topics are diverse and at times random; from politics to the latest gadget in the market.
It went on for years until one day; he found death staring at his face. An invincible man, in his prime, at the peak of his career… It was the turning point in his life. I witnessed him went through all the stages. Denial came in the form of analyzing the event over and over again, justifying his reactions, looking for any weaknesses, flaws and making sense of the whole picture. I was there, listening.
Angry with everyone. Angry with everything. Angry at the weather. Angry at the plants. Thank God, I was spared! The blaming game had begun. It was a ‘me against the world’ kind of thing. I felt so sorry for the family for they were the ones who were affected the most. They endured and sometimes they were screaming matches, too. When the going got tough, the family called me. I was there, listening to his justifications for the outbursts.
Then, the phone calls came. “Come, I just realized something!”. I was there, listening to a list of conditionals. “What do you think if I….”, “What if I had…”, “If I had…”, “If I do this now, do you think it will be better?”…
Suddenly, everything stopped. No more phone calls; neither from the family nor him. Nothing at all! I am a creature of habit (in a way), and felt I should visit, anyway. He just waved and vanished into the background. That was strange! I was there, listening… to others that he had been reduced to being a recluse for some time.
He turning into a recluse or even a hobbit would never deter me from visiting as always. I felt I needed to be there, to be present, to stay relevant, to stay connected, and to let him know I am in ‘his world’, as always. That was a trying time for all, especially him. Others looked at him differently and acted differently towards him. Many chose to stay away. I was there, listening to nothing.
My visits continued. Sometimes it was just for a cup of tea, sometimes for a walk about in his garden, and sometimes to play with his pet. He was always in the background; smiling, waving and then vanishing into the shadows.
That went on for a few months until one day when I visited, he was not at home! I was happy as it was the first positive sign. I waited for him to return. When he did, I saw the unmistaken happiness in his face. He smiled, waved and vanished, again. I was there, no longer listening but smiling.
Since then, he had progressed very well and it took him full three months before we were able to discuss like old times. At first it was just stories of his youth but slowly the topics developed to mundane everyday stories and later progressed to more complex issues like the Roman history and politics. Now it is just like old times… as if the dark period of his life was ‘that thing’ from a long, long time ago; in a galaxy far, far away. I was there, listening and happily engaging him into our endless discourse.
The day he expressed his gratitude, I knew my work is almost done. As curious as I am, I keep myself in check so as not to broach ‘that’ thing. I do have a lot of questions and I want the answers but I need to respect his space. After all, it should come from him, whenever he is ready. I am ever so grateful to the Almighty that he is opening up now. Given time, I know, I will still be there, listening and comprehending…
Shhh… Listen to comprehend. Listen with empathy. Listen to stay connected. Invest in listening, you will be pleasantly surprised with its rewards.