“I think I know why I get my headaches,’” I tell Anthony as we ride early one winter morning. “It’s because it’s so goddamn cold that my teeth freeze and it goes up to my brain. It’s up behind my left eye right now.” “Well maybe you should shut your mouth and stop talking for a while,” he chortles back. I pause a second or two as I figure it out, “Actually it’s ok. If I keep my lips over my teeth it’s not so bad.. Myeah mit’s metting metter malready..”
Well, I have something to say. I often have something to say but today I have this to say: I think Google and the ability to easily check points of fact have, subtly (and sometimes not so subtly), diminished the value of conversation. Language provides an ability to transfer information but, while there can be no doubt about the importance of accuracy on matters of fact, I’m starting to understand that that’s probably not the main point of conversation. A conversation is a temporary sharing of a moment in time. It is just one of many possible interactions. Being right often has little to do with it.
I sit down as Anthony prepares a mug of hot chocolate for me and an expresso for himself. E. walks into the kitchen.
“Dad I think I left my towel in the car.” She gives Anthony a hug. Anthony returns the affection with one arm as he balances the jug of hot chocolate with the other. “Morning E.” he kisses her on the head, “That’s ok I found it last night and put it in the dryer. It was a bit damp.” E. pulls back, “But I need it now!” she says forcefully. “It’s just in the dryer honey. It should be dry by now," Anthony replies gently, "Why don’t you go downstairs and pick it up." E. twists her hips and wanders off to the door. She takes a few steps than comes back. “I don’t want to go downstairs. I don’t want to go on my own.” She sidles between Anthony and the table where he is preparing breakfast.
I smile at Anthony as I watch the events unfold. E. is nine years old and has a swimming carnival this morning. To be fair the area downstairs is technically outside the house and the sun has only just risen above the horizon. Morning clouds hide much of its glow.
“Ok honey. Let’s go pick it up.” Anthony saunters downstairs with E. skipping at his side. He comes back up carrying a load of washing and drops it into a basket. E. dives in to grab her things. Anthony gets back to breakfast. “It’s competition day,” he tells me. “It’s a bit like this on competition day,” he says with a grin. E. comes back with a white shirt in her hand. “There’s a stain on this dad. Look,” she points out a faint black mark that looks like a washed out ink stain. “Oh yeah you’re right,” Anthony replies attentively as he takes the shirt from E. “And here’s another,” he says opening up the shirt sleeve, “and here’s another on the collar.” E. peeks over Anthony’s shoulder. “Oh yeah.. I wonder how that got there,” she asks. “I’m not sure,” Anthony replies, “It’s probably something in the dryer.” E. furrows her brow as she scrutinises the stain, “I don’t think so dad,” she replies. “Dryers don’t cause stains. It has to be the washing machine. Something dark in the washing machine has caused the stain.” She takes the shirt from Anthony and wanders back to her room.
I grin at the small, innumerable travails that parents contend with each day. “I like how your kid’s problem suddenly becomes your problem,” I tell Anthony as he places a steaming mug of hot chocolate in front of me. I wrap my hands around the mug. “Thank you,” I sigh as the warmth hits me, “I reckon some people never grow up beyond that stage.” Anthony nods as he tamps his coffee. “It’s a bit like that isn’t it?” he replies, “But I think there is a limit of what we can absorb.” Anthony continues, “When I have the kids over the weekend I find that I can be a bit short with some of the patients I see at work the following day.. You know those people that sit down in front of you and tell you their problem, and, then, before you know it, it becomes your problem.” “Absolutely!” I laugh in agreement as I rock back in my chair, "I know the kind well.” Anthony’s coffee machine hisses to life. He continues, “Well, after a big weekend with the kids I've reached my fill so I'm like, ‘Hang on there, this isn’t my problem mate. This is your problem. I’m just here to help you.’” He pauses a microsecond and moderates, “‘This is something we can sort this out but it's something we're going to have to do together.’”
We grin in mutual understanding. Anthony takes his expresso and sips at it. He sits down as E. walks back into the kitchen.