Saturday, November 12, 2022


The silence was as memorable as it was deafening.

And perhaps it was the deafening nature of the silence that makes it so memorable.

I was eleven years old when my father got lost driving home from church.

Eleven years of age.

My father had driven that route countless times. To church. Home from church. It was an approximately five-mile trip. Depending on the way we went it involved three streets.

Three streets. Five miles. Repetitive route. Over and over. Back and forth. Year after year.

It was deafening. Memorable. Life changing. Earth shattering.

The deafening, memorable, life-changing, earth-shattering event happened in the silence.

As I recall I was lost in my thoughts regarding the next days report cards. I knew where we were but was not giving that much notice until I heard her strained voice asking this question.

“Bill, do you know where you are?”

The question was followed by a silence that to this writing is deafening, memorable, shattering. The silence not only contained the answer. It was the answer.

I only vaguely recall a whispered “no” that came from a place so raw, so naked, so revealing that I never saw or heard my father in the same way again.

The silence between the question and the answer changed the trajectory of my entire life. It abruptly and violently ended my childhood. It was a reactive silence, yet somehow revelatory of something I had dreaded and anticipated. It was quantum, and it was oddly and irrationally familiar.

It seemed to be an echo of a trauma that had already somehow occurred.

Even at age eleven I well knew that my paternal grandfather had died due to an early onset dementia. This occurred before I was born. I also knew that two of my dad’s older brothers were exhibiting symptoms of the same disorder. And so, I knew that when my father got lost driving the oft repeated route to home that it would most likely be indicative that the familial malady was repeating in a nuclear way.

It was not long after that fateful and life altering car ride that our earth continued to shatter in practical and unmistakable ways. Echoes of memory loss became more and more frequent to the point where they became the norm. I became a caregiver before I departed elementary school. There were no more questions as to if my father knew where he was, or even if he knew who he was. And in less than five years he didn’t know who I was.

My father did not know who I was.

Yet it all felt familiar even as it was tragically happening. Like an echo of something I knew would happen. Maybe sooner. Maybe later. I knew it would happen. I somehow knew it would all happen.

The silence had told me so.

There is always a context of deafening silence deep within me. Shattered pieces of my broken heart are all around for me to behold. I hear echoes of questions that have no answers, yet the deafening silence is somehow still the answer. I still see the terrified profile of my mother’s face. I still hear the strained to breaking tone of her questioning voice. I knew as she asked, she already knew the answer. I already knew the answer. We all already knew the answer.

The deafening silence was the answer.

Echoes of that traumatic occurrence have punctuated my life experience. Circumstances present. Questions arise. Silence ensues. And the silence is the answer.

The deafening, memorable, life-changing, earth-shattering answer.

Repeating echoes of that childhood trauma arise, present, move within me and shake me to the core. Yet now I can relate to them as the echoes that they are. As repeating traumas. As patterns of grief that are seeking resolution. I am clear that I am not that eleven-year-old riding in the back of a Ford station wagon feeling my childhood being violently ripped from me.

That was then.

This movement I feel within me is an echo of the event. An emotional echo that I can now wakefully open to. Accept. Remember in an embodied way. Embrace. Allow the silence of my now presence to listen to the echo until it gently passes from my awareness. It may well repeat again. And with every repetition the silence becomes less deafening and more embracing.

Case in point.

In 2017 my husband Donald and I decided to ride to the nearby DQ to get an evening treat. More specifically, I was riding, and Donald was driving. On the brief ride home Donald began to drive more and more slowly as he began to navigate an odd route to get to our home. I felt an enormous emotional echo begin to fill my heart and churn within my solar plexus. I began to choke on the question that I knew I needed to ask.

“Donald, do you know where you are?”

Though I was in the passenger seat beside him I could clearly see my own profile from the back seat behind Donald. I heard the strain and terror in my voice. I felt the enormity of the experience. The pattern. The repetition. The trauma. The deafening ending and the terrifying beginning.

His silence was the answer.

Echoes of the past presenting in the present.

The eleven-year-old.

The now sixty-five-year-old.

The familiar echoes of a lifetime.

And yet somehow, I am new and so it is new. That was then, and I am now. There are echoes for sure. Yet I now know that I am the Silence and so the answers are within me. The silence is far less deafening. Less earth shattering. I know I can relate and to listen to the echoes and to pick up the pieces and move on whether I know where I am going or not.

I am very clear that while others may suggest it, I am indeed not going “through it again.” The emotions are as familiar as are the echoes. That is true. But I am not eleven and Donald is not my father. The outcome will be different for I am vastly different. I don’t even ask the questions so much anymore.

I simply listen and embrace the echoes of a lifetime.

And they are sweet and less deafening and tragic and beautiful and repeating and healing. And I am grateful.

Same echoes.

Different listener.