The Uphill Slide

There is always something.

Communication And/Or Understanding


Communication is so important and lack of it so painful. Can you imagine how truly crazy you might become in solitary confinement? Think Tom Hanks in Cast Away with only a ball to talk to. That was a movie though, and solitary confinement is real life, that sometimes exists even outside prison walls. It is frustrating and disheartening to try to communicate and not be heard, not be understood. Would it help to buy a ball and paint a face on it?

I looked up the definition of communication. It was, of course, just words. It did not express my ideas about communication. Maybe I do not have the right word. Then I thought, maybe the word I want is understanding.

I write because I am an introvert who sometimes get nervous in conversation or forgets the things I really want to say. Sometimes I am even tongue-tied with strange combinations of words coming out of my mouth. Sometimes I cannot make myself understood. Then I wonder if it is because my words do not make sense or the person is not listening to my words. Being misunderstood can stifle continuing efforts to communicate. Communication is not just words plucked from a sentence, but understanding the meaning in those words; so picking the right words as well as the right method to express yourself is important. Which do I prefer? Writing or speaking? It depends on circumstances. Sometimes writing is a way to hide from the face to face. Assuredly, communication is also in our tone, our face, our body and the things we do. So picking the right delivery can make all the difference in understanding.


Sadly, Cary will never return home again. That gives me mixed feelings about the home I will someday return to knowing that new memories with one of my children will never happen there again. Perhaps memories with Jacob will never happen there either. It is true that memories can move from house to house. They moved from my home growing up to include my husband’s home and then to our home.

I told my friend I was renting an apartment because Cary and Caleb needed a place to stay, and she needed support in her continuing recovery. Pittsburgh offered more opportunities for employment and non-judgmental support in that recovery, with the added advantage for both of us to be closer to Jacob. When I told my friend what I felt compelled to do, she said I had an opportunity most parents never get to know their adult children. I thought about that in terms of my mother. I felt close to her and would say we were friends, but not the friend that I might share anything with. Then I thought about my relationship with my mother-in-law and realized I felt more open to her, even though we had very different opinions and beliefs. Was it because I felt less fear of judgment by the one woman than the other or because I did not fear disappointing my mother-in-law as I did my mother? Or was it just the differences in their personalities? It is interesting and confusing to examine and try to understand the dynamics of our relationships.


I had the chance to get to know Jacob better since 2014. That is one of the good things I can say about Jacob’s arrest. After the arrest I lived with him off and on. I would say that we were not particularly close before that. Unfortunately, he did not share much of what was happening in his life, much to his regret now. I sometimes found myself as a go-between in family. It was not an enviable position. Is it women who more often find themselves in that position? I remember a couple of times that my mother-in-law was stuck in the middle, a peacemaker who never finds her own peace.

In the beginning, conversations with Jacob circled around the accusations and his marriage. We picked apart so many moments in his life and the past and questioned why this boy was lying. We felt betrayal and loss of trust in so many things. Later, we began to talk more and more about feelings and opinions and beliefs. We often disagreed with each other, but that was OK. We learned to communicate as two adults instead of mother and child. I think we became friends who could say just about anything to each other. We recently talked about two relationships in his life. With one person he could not have real communication because it was only words that were heard and pounced upon without understanding. With the other person, there were often differences in opinion that were understood and accepted as their individuality.

Jacob has said he learned one important thing from all that has happened. He has learned to share himself and his feelings. He is able to communicate better.

Continuing Communication

I hope that my friend is right about getting to know my daughter in some more profound way. I had always thought we were close, yet I have difficulty understanding why she did not ask for help as relapse was beginning. She said she thought we had enough to deal with. I question whether she thought I might judge her badly or reject her. She has offered explanations that still are difficult to understand. I want to think that we will become the friends that Jacob and I have become, but Jacob and I shared more similarities in temperament. Still, it is the differences in people that can give us greater understanding and empathy for them and even greater understanding of ourselves. How boring life might be without differences and how sad when we reject those differences and true understanding of each other.

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