ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

PARENTAL ANGELS

Anita was hurting. Any fool could see that – even if that fool happened to be me.

Her eyes were moist and red. Her chin trembled as huge tears rolled down her cheeks. Her shoulders shook as she fought to suppress the sobs that were rumbling inside of her. My buoyant, positive, always upbeat wife was discouraged.  Disheartened.  Deeply disappointed.

And there was nothing I could say or do to fix it.

I know what you’re thinking.  In fact, I can hear my sister Kathy’s voice already echoing all the way from Michigan: “Dang it, Joe, what did you do?”

Am I right, Kathy?

That would be the natural assumption, I’m afraid.  I’ll admit it: I can be a dork, especially to my family. I mean, I love my wife, and she knows it.  But sometimes I say or do things that are thoughtless, inconsiderate or just plain dumb.  I almost never intend to hurt, but sometimes it happens just because . . . well . . . I’m male, and . . . you know . . sensitivity challenged.

This time, however, my weaknesses weren’t responsible for Anita’s angst.  The exact details of the situation aren’t important.  But I do want the record to show that for once, I wasn’t the problem.

But I wasn’t the solution, either.

Don’t misunderstand.  I was trying – hard – to ease her pain and anguish.  For me, that usually means trying to find the right words.  I’m big on talking. Just ask my kids, who have endured lectures that make “Macbeth” seem like a “Saturday Night Live” skit.  So I talked.  I reasoned.  I expressed – alternately – sympathy, outrage, horror and concern.  There were a few moments when I thought I was borderline brilliant, if I do say so myself.

But it wasn’t helping.  Not really.  I mean, Anita appreciated my efforts – she said so herself.  She was grateful that I would sit and listen and try to console and comfort.  But when it came right down to it, I couldn’t make this all better.  The problem had to do with issues beyond my experience or expertise – issues about which I am, in fact, sort of stupid.

I could sympathize, but I couldn’t really help.

And so both of us were frustrated.

Then suddenly Anita’s parents walked in.  Unannounced.  Usually they call to tell us they are coming to pay a visit from their home 45 minutes north of where we live.  But this time they just appeared at our doorstep.  Almost miraculously – like parental angels responding to an unspoken prayer.  The moment I saw them I knew that their timing was perfect.

“Come here, Honey,” Anita’s Mom said as she approached her daughter with her arms extended. “Tell me what’s going on.”

The next few hours were a case study right out of Parenting 101.  They listened.  They counseled.  They shared similar experiences from their lives, and offered insights based on years of accumulated expertise. They provided perspective, assurance, affirmation and, most of all, love.  Within a couple of hours Anita was ready to go out for an early dinner, her eyes dry and her heart calm and at peace.

Anita is a skilled and competent professional in her chosen career.  On top of that, she is an extraordinary wife, mother and grandmother.  She is the strong one, the one who keeps us together and functioning smoothly as a family.  For myself and our children she is our counselor, our adviser, our therapist and our friend.  But on this day, at least, she was a child.

A child who was hurting.

A child who needed her parents.

And, thank God, her parents were there.

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— © Joseph Walker

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E-mail Joseph at: valuespeak@msn.com 

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Look What Love Has Done: Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit. 

"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World."