Sunday, October 9, 2011

Communicating or Just Sayin'

Lately my dad has called our phone on an average of three or four times a day. He has a hearing aid and might be able to hear some of the words if I care to shout them. The phone we have in his room at the nursing home has the amplification turned up to the utmost. It's quite possible that the nurses down at the central station can hear me when I try to tell Dad something. However, Dad always asks Mom if she heard what I said, and then he promptly tells me again that he can't hear a word I am saying so I will just have to tell Mom. This type of so-called conversation has prompted me to turn on the answering machine and the 'do not disturb' feature on our phone. It is impossible to communicate over a telephone when one party cannot hear--or won't listen.

Now Fang finally decided to get a hearing aid for both ears when he kept having to wonder what the grandchildren were saying to him. Mind you, he could manage to ignore whatever I was saying. In forty-three years of marriage, he has probably heard whatever it was once or twice already. But it has been nice to know lately that he can hear me when he has his "ears" on. Being ignored is one thing, but being told that I haven't said anything to him all day is something else again.

Over the years we have come up with a fairly good way of handling decisions around our house. I talk about things and make plans; then Fang decides what HE wants to do and does it. It may be a little one-sided on the decisions, but at least one of us is usually satisfied. This might not sound like a good form of communication, but it has worked wonders for our marriage. If a mistake is made by the decision maker (guess who), the other party can smile and say (or think), "I told you so." As I said, at least one party of the first part gets to be satisfied.

Now communication is supposed to be a two-way situation. At least that is what most folks take for granted. And perhaps it is just as true for my parents as it is for Fang and me. One of us talks away while being ignored--in both situations. Tonight my dad left a message on the answering machine telling us that they are ready to go home. It was so easy to erase the message. Now if it were as easy to get it across to Dad that he IS at home where he currently resides, then maybe we could just talk about the wonderful fall weather and the recent rain. Somehow, ignoring his message happens to be much easier than ignoring the fact that he wants to go home. Children--at least Dad's children--were reared to try to please their parents and do whatever they asked of us. Not being able to do what they want of us is just as hard on us as it is on the parents not to get what they think they want.

It may be that in the future our children will have to tell us to just be still and stay in the car, chair, bed, nursing home, or wherever we need to be. It is NOT easy being the child who has to tell a parent what to do. When children have to 'parent' the parents, it is awkward at the very least and emotionally trying at the best. It would be wonderful to be able to just do for them what they have always done for us without all the complications of personality and stubbornness. And maybe that is possible for some children and parents. Maybe God will bless our children so that Fang and I can be less of a problem and more like old friends who live in someone else's house. But since one of us likes to talk and the other likes to make the decisions, who knows what kind of problems we will make for others. Maybe the kids won't put a phone in our room--just sayin'.