one conversation at a time – part one

*

I was waiting for Luau to get home with the girls from dance class. One day a week I get home before they do. It’s an odd feeling – being alone in my own house. For fifteen minutes every seven days I’m not completely certain what to do in the quiet.

As I often do, I wandered into the office and sat down at the desk. I logged onto the computer – ever my trusty anchor. The ringing phone startled me as it broke through the silence.

“Hello, Jessica,” said neighborhoodgirl’smom. It struck me that she sounded very formal. Whenever anyone calls me by my full name I think I must be in trouble. “Luau left me a message saying that he’d like to come over and talk to me, but he didn’t say what it was about.”

I tried to stall. The conversation that we had envisioned was in person, face to face. It was decidedly not supposed to happen on the phone.

“Oh, yes,” I began, trying to sound casual and failing miserably. “We were hoping perhaps we could come over and have a chat. I … um … well … yes … so … I was wondering when you might be available.”

God, I was flailing. Why was I so nervous? I was sure my voice was shaking.

“Well, sure,” she said, “But I’d like to ask what it’s about.”

She was completely friendly, but of course she wanted to know what it was about. I mean, hell – it’s not like we call them regularly. I’d never even been inside their home, nor had I ever invited them into mine. Their daughter may be an infrequent play mate, but that doesn’t exactly make us close. For all she knew I was going to try to sell her a line of skin care products. I suddenly realized I didn’t know her husband’s name. I was beginning to panic.

The silence was getting increasingly uncomfortable, and no doubt for her part, making less and less sense. I decided I had no choice but to explain the reason for the call.

“Well,” I began. “We hoped to talk to you about something that happened when yourdaughter was over here not long ago.”

More silence as I gathered my thoughts. Where to go next?

“I’m not sure that we’ve ever really had a conversation about Brooke, but I was hoping that we could sit down together for a few minutes to talk. I don’t mean to sound evasive, but I guess I really hoped we could chat in person.”

I danced around for a bit longer until she finally asked the one question that I couldn’t dodge. “What exactly happened that prompted this?”

I gave in and relayed what Katie had told me – that while at our house for a play date her daughter had said, “You know how Brooke’s so dumb?” I started spitting out the rehearsed lines that lingered in my head -

“I know she would never mean to be hurtful, but I’m sure you can imagine how difficult that was for Katie to hear and how hard it would have been for all of us had Brooke heard it.”

“As we both know, kids will say things in the heat of the moment that certainly aren’t reflective of who they are.”

“She’s a great kid and I don’t doubt that she meant no harm, but we thought this would be a good opportunity to open up the conversation a bit and hopefully help build a greater understanding.”

I kept at it for a while, afraid to stop talking. Afraid to face her reaction. Afraid of the very real possibility that I’d be staring down a defensive Mama Bear who felt like she was under attack. I was waiting for the inevitable ‘My kid would never say that’.

It didn’t come.

She was warm and open and sincerely apologetic. “I’d like to talk to her and find out what she possibly could have meant to say,” she said. “She’s a good girl and I know she could never have said it maliciously.”

I agreed just a little too heartily.

“But I apologize profusely on her behalf,” she went on. “I can only imagine how hard this must have been. Please know how sorry I am for the pain this has caused your family.”

I nearly dissolved into a puddle. “Oh, Neighborhoodgirl’smom,” I said. “I certainly accept and truly appreciate your apology. I can’t tell you how much. But I hope you know that wasn’t why I was calling. I don’t want to be getting yourdaughter into trouble. I’m just hoping this can create an opportunity for all of us to come together and better understand one another.”

She couldn’t have been more receptive. She couldn’t have been more open and generous and eager to understand. She asked about Brooke’s diagnosis and we talked a bit about what it meant.

“I’d still like to have you or you and Luau come over,” she said. “I’d really like to hear your ideas on how we can talk to all three of our children about this.”

I, um, hmm. Me? Luau? What the heck do we know? For heaven’s sake it took us  three e-mails, two phone messages, two outside consultations, and five actual conversations just to figure out how to make THIS phone call!

“Of course,” I said, forcibly silencing the doubt squad in my head. “We’d be delighted.”

We hung up the phone with a promise to solidify plans for the following week. I was shaking. Luau rang just moments later and thought the house was on fire when he heard my voice. “Hon, you OK?” he asked.

“Oh my God, I just had THE CONVERSATION with neighborhoodgirl’smom!”

“Oh no,” he said, obviously on edge. “Did it not go well?”

I narrowly avoided tears as I squeaked out, “No, it was wonderful. And she asked us to come over and talk to them. She wants us to tell her how to talk to ALL OF THEIR KIDS. So now we have to figure out how the hell to do THAT.”

“Well then,” said my dear, indefatigable husband, “that’s exactly what we’ll do.”

To be continued …

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32 thoughts on “one conversation at a time – part one

  1. When you’ve practiced on neighborhoodgirl’s family, could I give you my in-law’s contact information? Seriously.

    I think the fact that you approached the issue with respect and openness from the beginning created the space for her reponse. It’s that old karmic law, right?

  2. ummmm….remember that little book you wrote????
    I think you already have it figured out, in so many ways, girl.

    I like that you describe Luau as indefatigable, and the fact that you can spell it, too!

    love and hugs to all of you.

  3. Can you just record the whole thing with Luau’s fancy iPhone so we can have an instructional video…?

    I think you’re awesome, Jess. You’re doing everything you can, and that’s a lot. A LOT.

    love.
    love.
    love.

    • ‘there’s an app for that’ .. lol

      it already happened, and sadly, no recording devices were employed. but i do promise a full report in part 2.

      (and thank you, love)

  4. How wonderful when we are assured that goodness abounds in people – who are right here in our neighborhoods, in stores, at the doctor’s – it’s a blessing when we do. Glad you found one right outside your door. It is so beautiful – to be understood by another. I hope the next conversation just slides right in behind this one…. way to go Jess!

  5. Nicely done! Nothing like being put on the spot to push us outside of our comfort (albeit well-rehearsed) zones. I hate that! And yet, it always seems works out in the end…hmmm.

    Oh and seriously, what is there to not LOVE about Luau? What a wonderful “rock” you have.

    Hugs!

  6. What’s the feeling called that you got on the phone? That stuck and you didn’t want to be there feeling? That one’s tough. That’s one of my least favorite feelings ever. I don’t like to be stuck when I’m talking, because I’m not very good at getting out. You, however, handled it beautifully.

  7. Why oh why do you keep us hanging?!?

    I was wondering the other day what had happened with the neighbor. Thanks for the update :-)

  8. I find it equal parts humorous, endearing and bizarre that you and/Luau have any doubts about your ability to impart the most complex or potentially hurtful and delicate message to anyone in a way that’s anything short of beautifully eloquent.

    If it helps, sometimes I focus my emotions on how great I’m going to feel when the conversation’s over and it’s gone well. Kind of a presumptive close type mindset… sort of…

  9. Oh man I have been neverous about this conversation too and WOW that was a GREAT start. Very exciting and very inspiring! You have turned my crappy day around with this post. Wonderful!

  10. I was nervous while reading this and it wasn’t even happening to me. I can’t imagine the strength and composure required to communicate about such a sensitive topic. You accomplished what you wanted brilliantly!

    Can you and Luau please adopt me (and by proxy my family). I need a confident and diplomatic advocate like you on our side. Heck, I haven’t even told our in-laws about our son’s dx. You are such an inspiration.

  11. Phew. I was also nervous just reading that. Glad the mother was so generous and receptive, and I’m sure it had something to do with how well you handled it.

    You are amazing!

  12. Um, that’s great…but….I say this in a spirit of love…perhaps the trait of Asperger’s where you kind of have to complusively say whatever is on your mind and can’t keep anything in and can’t be anything but honest, and just kind of say it as it is…while it sometimes gets you in trouble I admit…. I have to think…. that it would be better than having to have three emails, two outside consultations, and whatever else it was just to have one conversation :)
    And please dont take that as a criticism…Hey i know NTs work differently than us Aspies…. you want to make sure you’re doing things right…so do we… we just do it in a different way :) However you have to do it I think you did a great job advocating for your daughter.

  13. Once again, you have thought through the problem doing your own do diligence and adding your humanity to the process to do the best that anyone could do.
    That’s my Jess. Remember that life throws those very difficult moments at us all the time and always when we least expect it. As we have said in our discussions as you were growing up, you must take a deep breath and, “suck it up”, while applying all you many skills to resolve it one piece at a time. People who feel afraid always feel they are victim to the will of others. That my dear, will never happen to you or yours.
    Love you,
    Dad

  14. SO amazing!!! My heart was in my throat as I was reading down and my eyes filled up with tears at the end! So wonderful that she was so receptive!!! One person at a time.

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