When I brought my father to the hospital –whether for a scheduled visit to his primary care physician or an unscheduled one to the emergency room, the doctor would usually ask a few mental orientation questions. Do you know where you are? Do you know what day or month or year it is? Do you know who our president is?
From 2017 on, my father gave the same response to that last question — “I refuse to say that horrible man’s name.” It made me laugh every time.
I always wondered what box they checked when he said that. In their opinion, did he know, or did he not know?
The day he couldn’t draw a clock face (another cognitive screening test) was a sad one.
But the day(s) he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) identify our president still make me smile.
Why am I telling you this story today? I don’t know. In thinking about my self-imposed assignment to write a post every day, my thoughts wandered down this rabbit trail.
In the midst of all that’s going on in our country, I still find humor in one old man’s refusal to even speak the name of our 45th president.
(Warning: a late-ish post after a long day. My sole New Year’s resolution was to write every day, and, doggone it, I’m not giving up in the first ten days of January!)
My son came downstairs this morning while I was working on Duolingo. I’ve been using the app to learn Scottish Gaelic. “I find that really inspirational, Mom, that you work so diligently on that,” he said.
Mind you, Laurel, found it less inspirational when she was talking to me yesterday and I opened Duolingo. She was talking away and I interrupted with something profound like, “OH MY GOODNESS! LOOK! LOOK! LOOK!” They had just added a whole bunch more levels of Gaelic and I thought I was finishing the only remaining lesson available to me.
“See? You never listen to me,” Laurel said.
I repeated back to her verbatim whatever it was she had just said to me — but honestly, I was pretty excited that I now could continue learning Gaelic. Unfortunately today, I have no idea what it was she said to me.
I was planning to write a post about learning new languages and tell a sweet little story of an experience I had while in Gradačac, Bosnia. I said something in Croatian (which is close cousin to Bosnian) to a girl in a souvenir shop. She whispered something to her friend and then answered me in English. The friend told me that was the first time she has been brave enough to speak English to an American.
But the Laurel interaction niggles at me.
On the one hand, I connected with a teenager in Bosnia several years ago and remember it, despite the fact that that was the extent of our relationship. On the other hand, I was not giving my own daughter full attention yesterday morning and she felt the sting of it. Which of these people is more important to me?
Laurel. Hands-down, without-a-doubt Laurel.
Yet a connection over a cultural divide is also important. My poor Croatian betrayed my non-fluency and gave a girl a little boldness. I’m glad I was brave enough to risk sounding foolish.
So, if, as Paul Tillich says, the first duty of love is to listen, I need to do better. I need to close my computer, put down my device, and pay attention to the people who are most important to me and right in the room with me.
But somewhere down the line in duties of love, there has to be something about remembering those little moments, those little interactions, when you connect with someone else, maybe even someone from a totally different culture, and you’re both the better for it.
“…I want to ask you something. I can’t remember behind the last ugly thing. Was she very beautiful, Samuel?”
“To you she was because you built her. I don’t think you ever saw her — only your own creation.”
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Like most of our country, I’m still trying to understand what happened in Washington on Wednesday. The mob scenes from the Capitol play over and over in my mind. It’s like when every station on the car radio is playing the same song. And it’s not a song you like.
I’m reading East of Eden right now (and not reading the back of the book first). This won’t be a spoiler for those who haven’t yet read it because I’m smack dab in the middle and I don’t know how things will turn out. Plus, who knows? Maybe I’m all wrong in this middle of the book assessment. But here goes —
Adam, the main character, is the one speaking in the quote at the top of this post. He had recently been seriously injured by Cathy, a woman he loves. “I can’t remember… Was she very beautiful?” he asks.
Samuel’s answer to Adam helps me understand Wednesday’s events. “To you she was because you built her. I don’t think you ever saw her — only your own creation.”
Other people saw Cathy, Adam’s wife, for what she was – dark and evil. But Adam was smitten. He saw something in her that wasn’t there.
There are people in my life — some of them family members — who see our president very differently from how I see him. I can’t fathom their vision. It feels twisted. But they may wonder the same about me.
And as I continue to read about Adam working through his feelings, I’ll be working through my own, trying to make sense of something that may never make sense to me.