Complicated family communication

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Column by Ben Sheroan, editor

By Ben Sheroan

Getting a telephone call from by sister during the work day prompts an immediate emotional reaction. Seeing her name on the cellphone’s display screen brings a quick surge of tension and the beginnings of a knot in my stomach.

It’s not that she always calls with bad news. It’s usually no big deal. But if she’s calling, it’s probably urgent, particularly if the call comes during the work day.

We don’t call each other often.

You can blame busy lives, conflicting priorities or distance issues. I think it’s just something about how we were raised.

Dad had a philosophy about children. “I’m raising you so you can stand on your own two feet,” he said.

My memory tells me that he said it a lot. Probably not. But he said it often enough and with enough emphasis that it stuck.

And it influences who I am.

Dad’s statement, of course, means he wanted us to be independent and self-sufficient. The obvious definition is becoming capable of making a living for yourself and supporting your family.

Dad was big on that subject. And he didn’t just want you out of his wallet and away from his refrigerator. He had a generous and giving nature. He wanted to be sure that he gave us something else and it was a complicated, multi-layered with qualities such as integrity, work ethic and stability.

Emphasized to all three of his kids in a considerable dosage, it generally worked.

But that “standing on your own two feet” phrase can have a side effect and I never bothered to read the small print. It also can leave you standing alone.

Independence carried to an extreme becomes isolation which can feed my own natural inclination toward Grinch-like tendencies.

The isolation can happen without any personal squabbles or hurt feelings. It occurs with just the passage of time.

Relationships require attention. Whether a friend or co-worker, spouse, child or sibling, all relationships must be fueled with care.

So I’m standing on my own two feet. My sisters stand on their own feet. And when the phone rings, I fret for a split second before answering.

In this case, Sis was passing along a story tip about something seen by my niece while driving along U.S. 31W.

It was a quick, matter-of-fact conversation. No exchange of “how are yous” or passing the time of day. A quick “thank you” and a couple goodbyes punctuated the exchange.

That’s the way life is during the work day when you are both standing on your own two feet.

Even when you love each other.

Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com or (270) 505-1764.