Granted, coming from my husband who is more taciturn than I, I am not offended. Coming from his mother Lillian, who at the time she made this observation was fighting lung cancer and grieving over the recent death of her husband, no offense was taken. In fact, two years later, I still chuckle when I remember that day. The two of us were sitting at her kitchen table, sorting through piles of correspondence she had collected over the years, and I was keeping up a steady stream of conversation about Alex, her first great-grandchild and my first grandchild. She stopped sorting, poured us both another glass of wine, looked me in the eye and said with complete sincerity – "you love to talk don’t you dear?"
Mind you, Mom and I have known each other since I was 15 years old and I have been married to her son for 32 years. Over this span of time we had spent countless hours together in this same kitchen, drinking coffee, tea…and other adult beverages… discussing a range of issues. So, when she made this observation I burst out laughing because it is true – I do love to talk. It was the way I was raised, and, since Cliff’s mom was a great listener, it was a win-win for both of us.
Now of course it has become a family joke. My brother-in-law will stop in the middle of a phone conversation and say "wow, Mom was right. You do love to talk". Or I will do the "you know how much I hate to talk, but since you asked" routine, and everyone chuckles. Yet, when all is said and done, even my husband has told me more than once he wishes his family had been more vocal.
Growing up with five siblings as I did, you had to speak up or risk getting left behind... which did happen a few times. You had to make a quick grab for that last hot roll in the bread basket, run fast to get a window seat in the station wagon, and be first out the screen door before Mom could yell "wait, you need to do this". Cliff on the other hand grew up in a family with only two siblings. Where mine was loud, his was quiet. Where mine was active, his was sedate. Where mine would routinely interrupt another’s conversation to make a point, his would very politely wait their turn. And where my siblings loved to do things together and talk constantly to one another, his rarely took the initiative to communicate.
After we married, our own family dynamics mirrored more closely the type of family I grew up with, although there were times during our children’s teen years when I could truly appreciate why Lillian preferred not to speak her mind. Many fights could have been avoided if I had just kept quiet and not mentioned to a daughter that her choice of friends left much to be desired. Or not voiced my opinion about my son’s choice of music which to this day I still think is inappropriate. Or if I had not complained when laundry was left on the floor, dishes were left in the family room, and bedrooms were left in chaos. Our home could have been more peaceful if I had done what Lillian did – she kept quiet about her opinions and did the chores herself.
But that is not me. I believe verbally expressing oneself is never wrong if done correctly…something I am still trying to perfect after all these years. But communication is the key to understanding others and having others understand you. Without communication there is no chance of dialogue; there can be no sense of family without person to person contact. Luckily for us, our children all speak their minds and have no problem with communication.
Although they are separated by hundreds of miles, our children talk regularly to one another…truly talking to one another. When my husband and I were out of the country recently, Derek, our youngest at 22 years old, said the four of them became quite good at "playing Mom" When I asked what he meant by that comment he laughed and said they would call one another at odd times of the day or night and start off the conversation by asking the typical Mom question – "Are you still alive"?
Their sense of humor comes from their father.
As a mother though I am proud we raised a family that knows the importance of verbal communication, especially in today’s technological world where the impersonal form of communication is becoming more and more the norm. I also consider ourselves lucky to have raised our family before this juggernaut of technological advances became available because today’s parents are faced with unprecedented challenges. In just one generation the landscape upon which a family is built has been altered; most notably, the means by which they keep in contact with one another.
Email has made the art of letter writing almost extinct. Birthday cards and thank you notes no longer require a trip out to the mailbox…they are being sent out electronically more and more. Texting is usurping real conversations, not to mention rewriting the English language. IMHO (in my humble opinion), r u 4 real (are you for real), and LOL (not lots of love like I originally thought it meant when my daughter texted me; it means lots of laughs) have become the lexicon by which people communicate today. Facebook and other social media outlets are giving our youth a false sense of belonging.
This current generation believes they are more plugged into life, but in truth they are becoming increasingly disconnected from humanity. You cannot understand how a person truly feels when reading a text message. If your ears are being bombarded with artificial noise from an IPod, you cannot hear the sounds of real life around you...the tears, the laughter, the anxiety, the surprise. If you spend hours alone, tweeting about your daily activities, you miss out on sharing your life with real people who truly care about you.
And, if you do not spend time with those who love you, talking to them while they sort through the written correspondence collected during a lifetime, you will miss out on truly hearing how much you yourself are treasured. You miss out on seeing the understanding, the compassion, and the pain in knowing how fleeting time truly can be. You miss out on God’s gift of Life, His gift of Love.
"You love to talk don’t you dear?"
"As much as you enjoyed listening Lil. Thank you. I loved you too…very much!"
Copyright 2010 Carol S. Bannon
About the Author
Carol Bannon currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband. She is a wife, mother, grandmother to seven, substitute teacher, and an active supporter of the Down Syndrome Society of Rhode Island (DSSRI). Carol is the author of Handshake from Heaven and Our Family’s Christmas Elf. She and her husband love to spend time boating on Cape Cod and traveling to new harbors.