Please Listen to Me

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Dad made it clear just before sending us upstairs for the night, “Unless someone’s dying, you kids stay in your bedrooms.” The dinner party was about to start, and we were not to come out unless it was a true emergency.

Less than an hour later, I was leaping down the stairs, and then weaving through the maze of people before finally standing in front of my dad. Not worrying about the consequences for interrupting the dinner party, I stood as tall as I could. What had just happened was too important to stay in my room. But as I started to speak, Dad glared down with such a withering look, I wanted to shrink down and disappear between the cracks in the hardwood flooring.

Out of breath and still in my pajamas, I was trying to tell him something – something very important. But he just wouldn’t listen. He didn’t say a word.

As he pulled me through the gathering, the dinner guests parted. He marched me up the steps, pausing only for a moment outside our bedroom door to scold me. Again, I tried to tell him, but he just wouldn’t listen. Twin Brother Mark wasn’t dying … he was missing!

But who was going to listen to anything a 6-year-old had to say? Dad opened the door and, suddenly, everything was clear as a bell or, I should say, as white as snow.

I’ve thought back on that day often because it was the first time I can recall someone not listening to me. But I was only 6 years old, and who really listens to someone that young? Even though Mark was the one who actually caused me to be out of our room looking for help, Dad wouldn’t listen.

I still got punished, and thought that one day, when I got older and smarter, people would listen to me. Fifty-seven years later, I now understand that would not be the case.

As a teenager I thought I knew everything – at least about the important stuff: when to go to sleep, when to get up, whether to go to school on Fridays, how late to stay out on dates, and whether or not to eat vegetables. In reality, I knew nothing. If I had, my parents would’ve listened to me. For the most part, they didn’t. Who listens to a teenager anyway?

My early twenties brought more wisdom and the start of my career in the fire service. Young, strong and fresh out of college, I knew I could offer a lot to the job and my co-workers. But when I started to tell them, they wouldn’t listen. They didn’t want to listen to the “new guy.” How could I have anything to offer being so young and a novice in the fire service? I knew, when I got older and smarter, they would listen to me.

When my son was born, I knew this was someone who would finally listen. And he did, right up to the point he became a teenager. I thought when he got older that he would listen to me once again, but he didn’t. Still, I had a lot of knowledge about worldly things that could help him out. I knew, when I got older and smarter, he would listen to me.

After twenty-seven years in the fire service, an injury ended my career. Just the other day, I visited the department that I worked for so long ago. I tried talking to the fire fighters who work there to share some of the knowledge and skills learned throughout my time driving the trucks, fighting fires, and rescue operations.

They were all respectful, but I could see it on their faces. What could an old fire fighter with gray hair possibly tell them that they didn’t already know? I had gotten too old, and nobody was listening.

Yesterday, our 6-year-old granddaughter, Little One, ran over to me with an emergency. I stopped what I was doing, got down on one knee, and looking her in the eyes, listened to what she was saying.

Breathlessly she sobbed, “I can’t find Caroline. She’s missing!” She had searched everywhere but couldn’t find her sister. We started to search together. Soon we found ourselves being bombarded by indoor snowballs.

Seems Sweet Caroline wasn’t missing after all. She was just hiding in wait with a bucket of white ammunition. It was then that I realized I’d come full circle. All I had to do was act like a 6-year-old and somebody would finally listen to me.

So what happened when Dad opened our bedroom door and what really happened to Twin Brother Mark? He wasn’t missing. He was hiding outside our bedroom on the snow-covered deck making snowballs. When the bedroom door opened, Mark threw six snowballs through our dark bedroom. All of them hit Dad.

Trust me, everyone attending our first and only dinner party heard what our dad said that night.

Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy New Year. And that someone will listen to what you have to say no matter how young, or old, you are.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]