Ever notice how much we crave understanding from others? It is one of the guiding forces behind our interactions with other people. Failing the ability to allow another to truly see through our eyes, we resort to words. When we talk, we take the best option available to us: we fence with words to (gently or forcefully) turn our conversation partner so that they see the world from a perspective as closely matching our own as possible.
Words aren't magic, though they sometimes might feel like it. For those of us unable to communicate through art or music, they're our best hope of closing the gap betweeen others and ourselves.Sometimes they just can't suffice.
That seems to be my theme for the year: words that just don't manage to say it all, despite my best attempts to make it so.
Earlier this year, I spent more time in Arkansas than I have since Jeff and I married a few years ago. I haven't been back since Dad's funeral, mostly because life events seem to keep cropping up on a regular basis. I came back—different—and I admit it. I know that I've changed a lot in the months since Dad's diagnosis, and especially since his death. It's subtle. It's hard to see if you don't know where to look.
A cloud that blocks the sun does not block all the light, but a shadow is cast.
In the months since Dad died, I've found myself wishing that my friends, here in this sparkly new life, had some kind of honest understanding of all the years that came before I moved here. I didn't come to Huntsville to try to fit in, and I cheerfully plan to never do so. I came here with plans to make a small piece of this town my own; to find people I could relate to; to start over if I had to; to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life.
We've been here for four years. The first was bad. The second was better; I began to make friends. The third began the development of a full-fledged social circle. The fourth…let's just say that it's a good thing I have a lot of dishes and enjoy cooking.
Jeff was right. In time, I would make my place.
These friends - they've watched me laugh and grieve and live and love, all with only the perspective of my words about the years prior to 1998. Though the bonds of friendship can feel strong and comfortable even after just a couple of years, I've found myself wishing that there was some way they could truly see my life in context.
Flash-forward. This week's phrase: eight tenths of a mile.
We've had visitors this week: Stephen and Misty, who were here to wrap up details about their still-in-construction house. Stephen, who is the older brother of Andrew, a childhood friend of mine from Arkansas. Andrew, who has been saying for a long time now that I'd like Stephen a lot, if I'd just ever get brave enough to actually talk to him.
How funny life is. Of all things, it was Dad's death that prompted Stephen to send me a condolence note. As such things are wont to do when I'm involved, a note led to correspondence, which led to mentioning that he was considering interviewing for a job in Huntsville…
…which led to him joining us for dinner and gaming goodness while he was in Huntsville…
…and, eventually, another email saying that he was going to take the job and move to Huntsville…
…and, eventually, an email pointing us to the houses he and Misty were looking at…
…to he and Misty staying here for a couple of nights while they negotiated house details with the appropriate businesses.
All these past four years I've been wishing for someone around here who would have a background in the little details about my previous home; details that just don't get conveyed in conversation. Someone who knew the name of the city I went to college in, who knows that Juanita's is a bar and Café d'Roma is a coffeeshop, that Hillcrest is a neighborhood. Why nobody in Arkansas is likely to confuse Orval Faubus or Tommy Robinson for the next century or two.
All these years I've been wishing, and they've bought a house eight tenths of a mile from us.
Misty called Andrew from our house the first night they stayed here, to tell him how close our houses were. I wish I could have heard his response - imagine the sound you would make if your brother and an old friend, previously living in different states, were going to be neighbors.
Me, I sat on the couch and thought about calling Geof. Six months ago when I was barely able to hold myself together through grief and tears, I said, "I cannot see how anything good can ever possibly come from this."
He replied: "Amy, there is a reason for everything that happens. Some good will come of this. It will."