I remember when my mom was old and probably knew she was in her last years. She would sometimes say she wondered if she should speak to her sister, Ethel, again. She’d ask me, “Do you think I should call Ethel?” But she had judgements about her sister. She was critical of her and angry. She thought Ethel was boring and shallow. Mom was definitely judgmental.
Anyway, one day, towards the end, Mom just picked up the phone. They hadn’t talked for 40 years. They laughed and carried on like nothing ever happened. I heard Mom chatting away and when I walked into the living room she just put down the phone. There was a long pause.
I wasn’t sure who she was talking to. Then she just matter-of-factly said, “I just talked to Ethel.” She had her head down but when she looked up had a big, huge smile.
Still, 40 years were lost.
I know deep down what courage it probably took to make that call.
It’s not always the things we say to each other that are the problem in our relationships. It’s sometimes the things unsaid that sever them, maybe because we’re afraid of conflict or rejection or loss or feeling vulnerable.
I keep thinking if only we could talk to each other, stop putting up walls, we’d be able to build bridges to a better understanding of each other.
As Robert Frost said in his poem, Mending Fences, “Something there is – that doesn’t love a wall.”
With a Perspective, I’m Katy Byrne.
Katy Byrne is a psychotherapist living in Sonoma.