We need to talk

I was up in Salem, MA, a suburb of Boston, this week for business. One evening the people I was with wanted to go out to karaoke, but being in the state I have been in, I was in no mood to join them in their festive singing. So I called my cousin Phil, out of the blue, around 8PM and asked if I can come by and say hello – Phil lives in the next town over from where I was staying. I have not talked to Phil for a year or two, but he had e-mailed me about my writing a while back, and we were close when I was growing up. I just needed to go and hang out with someone who was family, and Phil was more than glad to have me over.

I got to their home in Peabody around 8:15 and was greeted by Phil and his wife Claudia with hugs and smiles. I knew I had made the right choice rather than going out and being miserable, or staying in the hotel alone and being sad.

andrew at party2

Andrew and Todd talked a lot about life – never thinking it was going to be their last conversation.

We started talking about work, what I was doing in Boston, and life in general – all pretty safe subjects. Eventually we talked about Nicole, how she was doing, about her school and her hockey.  We talked about Dorothy, about her work and her family. We talked about a lot of stuff. In hindsight though, much of the conversation was related to Andrew – about his school, about his son and about Jovi, about my new tattoo of his signature (I will write about that soon, I promise). We talked about Andrew’s funeral, and they shared some stories about that week that I didn’t remember, or chose not to. We talked for almost five hours. I cried here and there during some of the stories, I got choked up more times that I care to remember. I shared pictures of Andrew’s son, and stories I had not told in years. We covered so much and went from topic to topic.

We talked about family, and of friends. About the ones we still talk to, and the ones that have moved on with their own lives. We talked about those friends that have stepped up and have helped us through this ordeal, as well as those who have disappeared from our lives for one reason or another. They shared their perspective, as well as listened to mine.

It was pretty late. Claudia had long since gone to bed, and it was time for us to hug, say goodbye and hope to see each other again some time.

On my way home, as I started to write this essay in my mind, like I always do, I came to realize that I had done much of the talking. Well, maybe most of the talking. Well, maybe Phil was able to get a word in here and there. When I left their home after hours of talking, I felt pretty good, almost relieved. We had talked about so much. I had gotten a lot off my chest, I bitched about people, I moaned, I expressed my feelings in ways I have not been able to, to a person I felt very safe to be with. Phil didn’t judge me, he didn’t interrupt me, and he made no judgments about what I was saying. He just let me talk – he could see that I needed to talk, and he would throw in a pearl of wisdom here and there. But more importantly, and the most important thing – is that he was there to listen to me.

I thought he would always be there for me to talk to…

There is a reason why I titled this journal We need to talk, instead of I need to talk. I hope this journal speaks not to my fellow bereaved parents or bereaved siblings, but to our family and friends. We need to talk. I found that out this week. We need you there to sit and listen to us. No matter what we have to say. Not to make judgments about us or our grief, not to analyze us, not to try to make us feel better – just to listen. Just to let us let off steam, let us cry about our children, let us bitch and moan if we need to, let us talk about what we need to. You don’t have to council us, we don’t expect you to understand some of what we say, or to understand or appreciate our grief. We know that. We hope and pray that you never truly understand how we feel, or what we are going through without our children in our arms. We just need someone to talk to.

Let me repeat that – that is how important it is.  We don’t expect you to analyze us, or provide us with some amazing feedback that will take our burden away. We don’t expect or want anything from you but a soft smile, caring eyes, and love. Just like what Phil did so perfectly.

I wish you all find your own Cousin Phil.


5 thoughts on “We need to talk

  1. Laura Morin

    Thank you Perry for sharing the time and talk that you had with your cousin Phil. Like you, I have a son, Andrew, who died on 3/21/15 at 29 yrs old. He too has a son, Michael, 11 yrs. old, who I had not had the privilege of seeing for the past 10 years. I recently was reintroduced to Michael and his family. I am overjoyed to have him and his little half brother in my life again.
    You’re so very right about us needing to just talk to someone sometimes without being judged or without being told how to do this or that. I have also found that in my cousin, Wanda, who I have grown very close to since the death of Andy. We were close growing up, but like most people, we drifted apart for a while because life got in the way. Wanda recently lost her mother, my aunt, who I shared a very close relationship. She was more like a mom to me than my own mother. My aunt died 9 months to the day after Andy died. Wanda is an only child and her dad had died many years ago. So she is left with no siblings. I have filled that void for her and she has filled a void in me. Our talks are so raw, open and so very healing. Like you said, I wish we all had a cousin Phil to talk to. Wanda is my cousin Phil.

  2. K'Daya

    Yes i love this i feel like no one talks about khalil they remember him yes but to sit and have a conversation about him doesn’t happen much in my life and what’s crazy is that’s what i long for just to talk about my baby. However i can’t force anyone to talk about him i don’t know if they think it will hurt me or if it’s better for me to go forward in life. The reality is that talking about him will help me through the process just hearing his name makes me smile if i cry so be it but i just need family and friends to talk about him to Me because to me he’s still here with me and will forever be with me ….however one thing I don’t want is for anyone to do this just for me i need them to want to talk and remember my baby just as much as me . So glad u had that talk with cousin Phil and I hope to find my cousin Phil one day 2 too. Hang in their perry send my love to Dorothy and I am praying for the both of you and Nicole and know that Andrew is with u guys always . The stories u have told about him i feel like I knew him personally.

  3. Russell Rick

    Hi Perry,
    I wish you would have let me know you were in town, I just happened to be in Peobody, which is the next town over from Salem and I would have come to visit. Sorry, I missed you.

    Best regards,

  4. Ned

    Yes, Perry, thank you for talking about someone being there openly, receptively, non-judgmentally. This is probably not the same thing as love, but at times I think it gets about as close to love as can be. Thanks for the share.

  5. Sally Klein

    Thank you. Perry,

    I am glad you have Phil in your life. We all need someone close to us who is willing to listen when we talk about our child and I appreciate your pointing this out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *