We, his family were too frightened to answer him back or share our opinions & perspective with him if it was different to his. We all wanted to please him so much that we either went along with what he said or we kept quiet. This act of self preservation on our behalf has aided him to lose the art of conversation. If we did have a different opinion or disagreed with him he would get louder, more abusive and so worked up that you would just back down or walk away. We often just left Mum to cop the abuse as we snuck away hoping he didn't notice we had done so. He saw himself as the head of the household & felt that it was only his views and opinions that mattered. When he talked, you listened!
So, he talked, we listened. This is how you have a conversation with my Dad. This has always been the way. This has, I feel, also caused him to become deaf. How perfect! Now, he has an excuse not to listen to anything you have to say. His deafness and his refusal to wear hearing aids makes it so difficult for you to talk to him that you give up. So, you just listen to him and don't contribute too much to the conversation because it is way to tiring. When he does talk, it's not really a conversation anyway, it is more just a set of opinions and complaints about everything and anything. He has very little if anything positive to say about the world or it's people. His true joy is in talking about the past and HIS past experiences. We have heard many of his stories, over and over in fact. Once again, because we can not offer our perspective it is all purely about him and his life.
At 87, it is hard, maybe even impossible for him to change now. But I see where, how and why I have contributed to this lost art of conversation. Yesterday, I went to visit him in hospital. I stood at the door way for a couple of seconds and looked at him before he noticed I was there. I felt love for him and thought he looked quite serene and well. It was only when we started to converse that the awkwardness and unease surfaced. No hearing aids. I have to raise my voice and repeat myself. He asked questions about Mum and tried to listen, but I found myself not wanting to say too much because it was too much hard work and I don't like yelling when the room is full of others trying to rest in their beds. The doctor came around and I had to interpret everything because he was a "quiet talker'. Then when Dad found out he couldn't go home, he started to bitch and complain about the shower. I showed him how to make it work for him, but he wouldn't take it in. So, what did I do? I shut down, listened to him complain for a while, said I have to go and I walked away. It is too hard, he won't listen, it's sad really.
I now see why I am such a good listener and why I find it difficult to talk about myself & what I do. I am going the opposite way, I am in danger of losing this wonderful art of conversation. Too much listening and not enough contributing, tipping the scales in the opposite direction. So interesting isn't it?...answer me! hahaha..
With 'smart phones' we are surely in danger of this art dying all together as we text or message each other on facebook instead of having real conversations. I too am guilty of this and sometimes I just crave a person to person conversation. May we all find balance with this art. May we all be contributors so that we can share our stories, listen to others stories and learn as much as we teach.
How do I tell my Dad he has lost the art of conversation, and we, his family helped him to lose it. Do you think he will understand? Do you think he will listen? The thought of broaching him with this conversation causes butterflies in my stomach. Hmmm...maybe a conversation for another day.