Somewhere in a momentary pause in the phone conversation with my parents back home in North Carolina and me in New York City lies the inner and true communication – the things we never talk about when we talk about everything else. It goes something like this:
My Parents: When are you coming home? We miss you and worry about you all the time. We can’t begin to tell you all the things we think might happen to you. For instance, have you been shot? Have you been stabbed? Has anyone in your immediate family been stabbed? Have you counted to see if they are all present and unharmed? Maybe you have been stabbed just a little and think you will be OK. But you should really tell us if you have been stabbed. How about the dog? Has the dog been stabbed?
On another topic we will never directly discuss with you, we’d like to know when you will live up to your enormous potential. Today? Tomorrow? It should be soon. We think it’s perfectly lovely that you want to work with adults with autism. But still. What is a Life Coach? We have been coaching you for your whole life. Are we life coaches? We want more for you. There’s so much more inside you. We know there is. We put it there. It wasn’t easy. Believe us. But we did it.
On a related note, will you be publishing a book this year? How much of a bestseller will that book be? Where can we get a copy of this book? Will it be at the library? We love Rowan Public Library. We would happily pay for a copy of the book. We would buy twenty or so of them and pass them out to our Sunday school class as required reading. There might be a quiz or at least a lengthy group discussion in lieu of anything spiritual happening one Sunday. We would teach the class using your book as a guide. That’s how we would get away with it. If your new bestselling novel is in the library that would be nice, too. Then we could walk into the library and show friends the book there. That would be nice. Will there be a book tour that starts in the Rowan Public Library with a book signing where you were once a page? There would be something so perfect about that. Oh, and if a novel is too much we would settle for an oversize coffee table book called something like Kevin Carter’s Book of Really Big Important Thoughts.
How cold is it there, really? Freezing or below freezing? It’s warm here. The sun is practically blinding. We are both wearing sunglasses right now, and we are indoors. I am not lying. Can you see the sun through the smog? When are you coming home?
Also, are people being nice to you? They should be. They should all love you as we do. We have heard that people up there are not as nice as they should be. When we came to visit recently there was a lot of car honking. What was that about? Just rude and unnecessary really. We hope these people will understand that you are a very sweet boy and they should change those ways and embrace you as we do. If we were there and someone honked at you, we would give them such a mean look they would never want to honk at anyone again.
There are plenty of things I am not saying, too.
Me: I am just fine. I love New York. Really I do. How many ways can I say that so you will believe it when I tell you? The life you think I should be living is not necessarily the life I want to live. I am so glad you think I have enormous potential, and I think so too. But maybe I have a different way of expressing that potential than you imagine. That’s really want I want to tell you and have been trying to tell you and not telling you for many years. We are all lovely and have no stab wounds. No one has been stabbed or shot or anything like that. I am safe. We are all safe. The dog has not been stabbed. He has eaten some things off the sidewalk today that he should not have, but he is otherwise OK. All is well. I love you. Don’t worry. Please. And yes, it is getting kind of cold in the mornings. But I wear a jacket, and I am doing fine.
Also, I stopped having Really Big Important Thoughts around 1994. There simply wasn’t time for them. Would you be satisfied with a small pamphlet of Largely Inconsequential Ideas? Or a blog?
So, none of that conversation is spoken aloud. It just lingers in the silences. Hangs in the air. We talk about my son’s school and how he’s adjusting. Whether my wife is on a business trip. When we will see each other again. The usual. The normal things you say when you say things with so much being left unsaid. It’s what we talk about when we talk about nothing at all.