Day 367- Keep It Light

A few days ago, a very good friend called me to support me through the anniversary of Shayna’s passing. He is one of the few people in my life that I’ve known longer than Tywana. Our relationship spans back 30 years to the days when we were both single.  He’s seen me up, and he’s seen me down.  He is the mentor who showed me how to start my business. But, over the years, we don’t talk so much anymore. We used to talk every day.  Literally, he’d call me through the computer, and we’d talk while we both worked.  It was like being in the same room together. Now, he lives two hours away and has for the past 19 years. Yet, I’ve never met his children; the oldest is graduating from high school.

He starts the conversation with something like, “Well, let’s get the bad part (or the awkward part, I can’t remember which) out of the way first.”  I’m thinking someone in his family must have died or is dying.  He continues, “I know you have a difficult day coming up, and I was thinking about you.  Kristi and I kept the program from Shayna’s service, and we look at it all the time and count our blessings.  There’s nothing I can say or do to make this better for you.”  I tell him it’s been a rough year, but we’re making it.  So, with that “out of the way,” we go into our conversation about business, the economy and politics- these are the thing we talk about when talk which is about every other month now.  Get the death stuff out of the way, then keep it light. That’s what we do, and we’re both cool with that.

Yesterday I called my parents’ house to get the details of my cousin’s stepson who passed recently.  We have also had a prominent member of our Monticello (Jefferson) family pass this week.  Dad picks up the phone. This means Mom is not home.  I ask him about Joe’s son, and he tells me what he knows.  Then he mentions Shay (my relative who also passed this week).  He tells me that he knows we got a lot of cards and gifts on the anniversary of Shayna’s passing and mentions a celebration Brianna put together for Shayna at my parents’ house in Columbus.  Brianna is the closest person in the world to Shayna besides Kayla.  Shayna and Kayla have a relationship that goes beyond sisterhood. Brianna and Shayna are like sisters. They are only a few months apart in age.  They have taken countless vacations together. They called each other Peanut Butter & Jelly and even composed a song about their relationship.  Brianna wanted to celebrate Shayna’s Birthday in Heaven. So, they got together in Columbus.  Dad tells me that Mom will have to tell me about it. I don’t ask him why Mom has to tell me about it when he and I are talking here and now.  I just let that go.  He tells me that he still thinks about us and prays for us.  He tells me to tell Tywana and Kayla that he is still praying for them.  My Dad and I rarely have long telephone conversations. If I do call and for some reason, he picks up the phone, if Mom is there, he will put her on quickly.  I expect this to be a short call once we get this part of the conversation out of the way and I know Mom’s not home. For some reason, though, we shift to basketball and the Cavs, then to politics, and we end up talking for about an hour.  I guess I’ll find out from Mom what I need to know about the celebration they had at the house.   Dad did well talking about this as much as he did.  We have never had a relationship where we talk about emotional stuff. He’s always been rock solid for me, but that’s just not him. After Shayna passed, for a while, he hugged me when he saw me, he told me that he loved me when we did talk on the phone. It was kind of strange but nice.

Different people have different comfort zones. I’m not criticizing my Dad or my friend.  They do what they do and I know that they care for me as much as people like my buddy Kevin, who wants to know how I’m doing when he calls.

Part of navigating the grief minefield is knowing which conversations to have with which people.  Some people just want to hear “I’m doing OK” and move on to the next topic. After a while, you learn to feel the conversations out, knowing each person’s comfort zone and giving him the space to take it as far as he feels comfortable and leaving it there. With those people, you just keep it light.

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