Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask

I was talking to my brother on the phone, during a stressful time when tempers were flared and feeling were hurt. At his request, I passed the phone to my Father, thinking he’d just vent to him, for a few minutes and that’ll be done.

The conversation between him and my Father lasted 2 hours.

Throughout the argument, I kept hearing my Father say, “Well, if you don’t tell me, how am I supposed to know?!”

My Father was never one to pry into other people’s business, it causes too much unneeded trouble for him, made life complicated with secrets and that’s not how he wanted to live. However, if it was never brought to his attention, then he’d automatically assume that everything was fine, at least to a controllable point.

But that isn’t true. We didn’t voice our opinions not because we didn’t want their intervention, we don’t say anything to see if they will care enough to intervene. The problem here, is that my Father didn’t know how, his approaches were always awkward and far too short for his own good to get an in depth look at us, so when the tension was overwhelming, and people were yelling, my guess is that my Father had to meet such sudden, but not unanticipated, feelings that probably would’ve been prevented, if not lessened or prepared for, had he taken some sort of prying approach towards us.

He tried however, I remember when I was in the 10th grade, we were driving to Chicago from California,  it was at night, and we were sitting quietly, it was just him and myself alone in the car for everyone was waiting for us there at Chicago. He randomly asked me, “So… Are you going to get married?” Mind you, I didn’t have a girlfriend, nor had any such indicator that there was a special girl in my then-short life, “Whaaa?!” I “gracefully” responded, “What are you talking about? Married?!” “Well, I was just curious, are you going to get married?” He rebutted. “Well… I guess so… I don’t know! Why are you asking me this?! I don’t even have a girlfriend!” I tell him. “Ahhh, I don’t know, I was just curious!” He says, and the conversation just fell short at that.

Heh, I think my reaction was a mixture of teenager embarrassment and surprise at the randomness of the question.

We didn’t discuss the topic ever again.

Heh, I suppose I’d chalk this fault of his to his “lack of a Father-figure” pile, because the entire conversation was purely awkward, even now, I still can’t tell if he was really trying to find out about my life or was merely playing around. I’d go with the former, because it felt like it was awkward for both of us, heh, which means that he has little-to-no experience discussing such things.

I guess it must’ve frustrated him, not being able to communicate completely with us, heh, feelings are complex, and I suppose that he never really had much opportunity to really delve into them, much less into our own.

But it wasn’t completely hopeless.

My Father spoke on a less communicable level, when I started being his ‘Little Assistant’, I felt a bond with him, that I almost couldn’t understand. But I could’ve barely felt his emotions, I sensed when he was frustrated, when he was genuinely happy, and I was able to tell that he can sense my emotions, when I was passionate, when I was at my wits end, and heh, when I was stubborn like him, trying to get a job done.

I am glad I was able to realize his lack of communication skills early and that’s when I told him as much as I could, granted, he didn’t understand much, but he realized what he could and tried to help at every opportunity. It also helped me realize that some people communicate without words, through gestures, small movements, subtle changes in their tone of voice, even through hitting others in the back of the head. I also learned the value of communication as a whole, to overcome that awkwardness that constantly thwarted my Father, and really learn what’s going on in people’s lives and offer my help.

I’m definitely going to need this skill when I’m a doctor, because I’m going to run into a lot of people, of various backgrounds and levels of communication.