10/10/2012

A no-nonsense phone call


This is my mom, Alina. “I didn’t realize that my son will be teaching me a lesson today. 
Thank you,” she said.

Family conversations are often hidden from a public view. However, some are worth sharing. This one was special as every one is when I call and talk with my mom, Alina.

But first …

         We learn – if we care to admit it – all the time. The positions we once held change. Views that were once local are becoming global, and micro migrates into macro or vice versa. As long as we continue to recognize that nothing stays the same in an evolving world and culture, as progress requires change, by sitting still we will be left at the station, while the train of life speeds ahead.
         For some of us, the issue persists in how we are managing change and whether we recognize that on a personal and professional level. Our egos may be a major handicap in the midst of the life’s journey.
         Nodding in a direction of honesty, I must admit to occasionally having made a few silent or audible demands in order to be listened to, all based on a particular position I held. 
         I know someone who uses a lot of religious words, as if showcasing his deep spirituality, all in order to protect his position of power.
         But times are gone when a demand to be listened to evolved into an argument – it’s the church speaking, you better obey! The Millennial Generation buys stuff like that, right? It doesn’t cut with me either. I learned.

Now, a phone call

         I love my mother. Alina is 85. Over the last two-three decades our contact has been mostly by phone. An occasional visit gave both of us more terrain to cover in a direct conversation, to spar on a topic or two, and doing it one-on-one. From time to time I would get my mother’s black-and-white convictions, served on a platter of “here I stand and shall not move.” Obviously, I often reciprocated.
         So, a few days ago we talked over the phone. Referring to an issue that arose between her and someone who didn’t quite do what she wanted done nor agree with her, she remarked that she wished people listened to her more.
         “I tell them that I am older. I am a senior and I should be listened to.”
         As I said, she is 85. Hearing her argument I ventured out with a comment I could not refuse to express. “Mom, what sort of argument is this? Just because you are older does not mean that people will accept what you are insisting on if you are talking nonsense,” I said. "And believe me, you do just that at times."
         “Give me a better argument," I continued. "Give me something more than will relate to the issue. Most people already know that you have your years, and I guess they will respect you a priori for the worth of your eight plus decades of knowledge, experience and wisdom.”
         Then, I added that there must be something more substantial for your interlocutor to chew on, a new argument perhaps, rather than something they already see or know. “It doesn’t move them,” I said.
         A few seconds of silence ensued. Then, in an up-beat tone, she responded, “You know what, you are right. I talk nonsense every so often, don’t I? Your dad tells me that I talk to much, anyway.”
         “I didn’t realize that my son will be teaching me a lesson today. Thank you,” she added.
         What followed were the appreciated expressions that only a loving mom could bestow. "I wish you could talk with me more often," she concluded.

We learn, don’t we?

         It was teaching moment for both of us. This time an honest expression of frankness, shared in a loving way hit the target. It was a conversation that actually ignited a reflection of my own. By admitting her flawed reasoning, she was teaching me that age means little for lessons are to be learned.
         I have a son. And I am 64.
         As when he was 12 and blurted out that my shouting at him did not bring about respect in his eyes, there will be more lessons to learn from him. Actually, I am already receiving a few every so often. Even though I may not readily admit to it.   
         Besides, I could talk less, and listen more.