Tuesday, October 28, 2008


In the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” there is a memorable scene in which the young medic is sitting in a deserted church on a rainy night, writing a letter to his mother. Quietly, poignantly, he tells his comrades about how his mother would come home late at night from work, eager to talk with him about his day, but sometimes he would just pretend to be asleep, so he wouldn’t have to talk with her. Staring wistfully into the night and with puzzlement in his voice, he says, “I don’t why I did that…”

I suppose that for many of us that moment of realization comes too late. When we’re young and full of ourselves, our parents lives seem dull, their opinions irrelevant, their concerns laughable. As we grow older, our own concerns fill our thoughts: work, bills, our own kids and their problems. And as our parents become elderly, we sometimes, in spite of ourselves, grow a bit impatient with them…with their ever-present worries about their health, with repetitious stories about people we don’t know, with their complaints. In spite of our good intentions, we may call or visit them less frequently.

And then it is too late. In a matter of seconds, with a swift stroke of cruel fate, simple, familiar communication is severed. Words still flow, but they are scrambled, incomprehensible, disconnected, clanging/banging/changing. Communication, of necessity, occurs at a different level, and somehow, we understand. What wouldn’t we give now to hear the familiar sayings, the easy chit-chat, even the complaints?

Like that young medic in a darkened church, we remember all those times we pretended to be asleep, and wonder, “I don’t know why I did that…”