January 9

The Joy of Being Heard

January 9, 2013

Personal Growth

When I was fourteen years old—very mature, you understand—I lived in Terre Haute, Indiana—a lovely place of large hardwood trees and vast fields of corn on the banks of the Wabash River. For reasons I do not remember, one day I was a passenger in a car being driven by Geraldine, a friend of my parents. I began to tell her about my first and current experience with being in love—the falling down, blind drunk kind—with a girl at school who was three years older.

I cannot remember what motivated me to share this with her, because every other adult I'd ever known would have told me that I was too young to know what love was, that I should be careful, blah blah blah. But after my dreamy, nearly opioid-induced narrative, she said, "She sounds like quite a woman." I remember every word.

I couldn't possibly have put into words how I felt then, because I'd never had an experience like that before. Ever. But now I can look back and describe my fourteen-year-old feelings easily, because I remember the event so clearly that I can still remember exactly where we were driving on Hulman Street as we approached Third Street. I felt like someone understood me and had no agenda whatever for herself. She cared about ME, and it was thrilling.

Today I called her, 46 years later, and we had an utterly delightful conversation. I thanked her for the experience long gone and the influence she'd had on me, and of course she asked about me and my family. Again, her concern was for me. Now I don't know which gave me greater pleasure, being understood and loved by this great woman long ago or hearing her voice again today. Feeling heard, understood, and cared for is a satisfaction difficult to describe.

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