OtterSummer 8.26-Mute

mutebutton
I’m probably fooling myself when I fondly remember long, heart-deep conversations with The Grand Otter. Truth told, she’s always carried on a rich internal dialogue that only occasionally surfaced into interaction. She’s a keen observer, but restricts her commentary to Facebook posts, most of which seem appropriate, and the odd complaint and the very rare two or three line comment. She’s into appreciation this summer, and always remembers to thank me for my little favors, and nails me every time I neglect to acknowledge her thanks. Other than that, she’s mostly mute, though.

Her rich inner life stays contained beneath that crimson hair. She mentioned that she’d lost twenty-some pages of fresh writing yesterday when she closed her vintage laptop before saving. She probably won’t be doing that again right away. “It probably wasn’t that good, anyway,” she moaned. I was hoping she’d share that writing with me. Her few mutterings center around true mutters, spoken in a voice neither confident nor particularly audible. Our conversations involve a lot of me asking, “What?”

I sometimes feel as though I’m dragging around the neighbor’s dog’s pet beaver. I’d noticed a few times this fuzzy little toy that looks the world like a squirrel on our front parking strip. I’d put it up on the retaining wall, thinking some toddler dropped it when the nanny pushed the stroller past our place, but last weekend our neighbor Tim was standing on his parking strip chatting with another neighbor while holding that squirrel, so I asked him about it. Turns out that it’s his dog’s toy, and that it’s a beaver, not a squirrel, though it long-ago lost its two bucky front teeth. The Otter’s about as responsive as that beaver, most days.

I’d like to be her confidant, her secret safe confider, but I’m clearly too old to qualify. She confides more to her Facebook Friends, most of whom she doesn’t personally know other than to trade confidences with. I know my grey hair disqualifies me from securing access to what’s really going on in there, and that aches. I’ve not proven myself unqualified as a confidant, I’m just all grown up and perhaps lacking adequate adolescent angst.

She has a narrow Midwestern palate. She loves packaged ramen, so I offered to take her out to an authentic ramen house, which I judged extraordinary but she clearly found disappointing. I tried to explain the differences as we drove there, but she wanted to plug into her sound track and told me so. Once we arrived, of course, she had no context from which to inform her choice, and felt embarrassed for me to explain anything “in public.” I tried to chat about the marvelous food, but she could only hear the barely-audible background music, and commented on each performance while my sparkling commentary on the glistening broth fell on disinterested deaf ears. She mentioned how filling the food seemed to be, which meant we’d take about half of her supper home, and she wouldn’t touch the tremendous goyza, either. My meager attempt to delight degraded into mumbled complaints. Sigh.

I try pretty hard, knowing much of my effort might never be appreciated, and some of the rest might fall well short of satisfying anyone, including myself. I could respond by staying mute myself, by stifling this urge to connect. I might acknowledge that The Grand Otter’s passing through her stuffed dog toy mute stage. She’s considerably larger than Bucky Beaver, though, and it’s tough to drag her through what might have been sparkly adventure. I’m tempted to leave her behind and carry on, but I will not.

Though the words might seem mum, the receiver mute, the conversation continues, albeit in shockingly different form. I know my very presence annoys and disrupts, and I sometimes need reminding that this is my fair, firm, and proper contribution to the relationship. I’m certain something profound is grinding away in there, and that it’s always a mistake for me to interpret mere muteness as unresponsive. A time will come when she confirms my generous suspicions; maybe not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but someday. Until then, I’ll work through my own internal response to her deeply internalized responses. Mum’s the word.

©2013 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









blog comments powered by Disqus