Vulnerable

V is for vulnerable — something I like and don’t like, if you know what I mean.

Try to follow me on this meandering story.

Last week, I had a couple of swimmers stop at the front desk and ask me if there was something wrong with the pool. It felt colder than usual.

One of my co-workers thinks that swimmers are the biggest complainers. “It’s always something with them,” she said to me one day. “How can they tell if it’s a degree or two off?”

They can. I know this because I swim in the pool, too.

Anyway — cold pool last week. I asked the Aquatics Director about it. Yes, it had been colder. A clogged duct or something.

“Some swimmers always complain,” she said, “but when the ones who don’t usually say anything tell me that the pool is cold, I pay a little more attention.”

I understood this, too. Maybe my front desk co-worker wasn’t totally wrong. Swimmers complain, but not all of them. Just like people in general complain, but not all of them.

Anyway — clogged duct. One clogged duct caused the temperature of this whole big pool to drop. Clogs can be huge issues. Clogged sinuses lead to sinus infections. Clogged bowels lead to … issues. Let’s just say that a family member recently had that problem and leave it at that. The clog eventually cleared.

Anyway — clogs. Bad. I’ve been struggling with a major clog for years now. Clogged emotions.

It’s not like calling a plumber to clear a duct, or taking laxatives to clear the bowels. I have a counselor who has been slowly chipping away this blockage of mine. She’s great.

We both agree that some of it may have to do with never being able to properly grieve my father’s death.

Last week was the anniversary of his passing. I planned out what I wanted to do. I found a bagpiper who would come and play at the cemetery in the evening. I picked up my father’s ashes from the funeral home. (He still hasn’t been interred.) I gathered poems and photos and blankets (it’s cold here now in the evenings) and a notebook and pen, and went to the columbarium where my mom’s and my brother’s ashes both now rest. I cleaned the bird poop off the marble bench there before spreading a blanket on it and setting out my other stuff. I wanted to sit alone with my dad and my thoughts and a bagpiper.

The bagpiper arrived a little before 6, dressed in black. He had asked me beforehand if it was important to me that he wear a kilt — it wasn’t. He brought his border pipes, which are smaller, quieter, and played with a little bellows that fits under the arm. We found a chair where he could sit.

He began to play.

A couple I see at the gym were out for a walk. They paused behind me.

“You’re welcome to stay,” I said, and started to clear some space on the bench.

“We’ll stand,” he said. They listened for a few minutes and then continued their walk.

The bagpiper played and played. I read the poems and looked at the photographs. He played. I wrote in my little notebook. He played. I walked to the corner of the columbarium where my mom and brother rest and cleared off the pine needles. I whispered to them both. He played.

I guess I could go on and on describing this whole scene and the songs played on the border pipes and then the ones he played on a low whistle. I wanted so badly to cry because I thought that tears would clear the clog inside.

I never cried.

Fast forward to the next morning at the gym. The man who had stopped to listen with his wife came in.

“What did you think of the bagpiper?” I asked.

“It was very nice,” he said, “but what was the occasion?”

“It was the anniversary of my father’s passing,” I said. I didn’t tell him about the clog.

“He must have been a remarkable man for you to do that for him,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed. “He was.”

“Tell me about your father,” he said.

Immediately I could feel the tears. I swallowed, forcing everything back down, and babbled for a few minutes about my dad. He listened patiently.

“Tell me about your father.” That may be the unclogging agent.

Now to find a safe person and a safe place and a safe time to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to share all those thoughts and feelings.

And to cry.

Vulnerability is scary, but it’s pretty important, I think.

The Columbarium

6 Comments on “Vulnerable

  1. Oh, Sally… there aren’t enough words. Having met your dad, and seeing the devotion and respect within your family, I have every confidence that those stories need to be told. What a remarkable man. ❤️

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