May 11, 2008

Don't Ask

Last winter, when I went on a cruise with my mom, brother and Hart, my mother and I made a pact when we arrived in our stateroom: I would not criticize her appearance (as I am wont to do) and she was not to ask me questions (as it seems everyone is wont to do). As a result, it was a delightful holiday.

With apologies to Bill Clinton, I would like to adopt this policy: Don't Ask, Don't Ask. Why? I feel besieged by questions, all kinds of questions from all kinds of sources. I may blow a fuse at any time.

I have to answer medical questions; questions from teachers and therapists, and I must do so accurately and to the best of my ability. There is no evading it. How old were the boys when they arrived? Did you know they had disabilities? What is their medical history? What is their current diagnosis? What medication do they take? I have answered these questions from professionals so often that I can't stand the sound of my own voice. As of now, there is a moratorium on curious amateurs getting thoughtful answers.

There are legions of unanswerable questions. Why did he do that? What does he want? What caused that outburst? Sometimes I want to scream that I AM NOT A MIND-READER! I don't have a clue either!

Over the years, I have developed a few tricks and I avoid situations that are bound to end in disaster. I just hate explaining my reasoning over and over again. They are twins: why don't they go to the same school? Why do you have only one with you? Do they fight? Do they get along? Do they share a bedroom? Who is easier? Sure, these questions seem innocuous enough, but I don't have the same patience for explaining that I did ten years ago.

Jeff speaks elliptically and Hart tends to go off on unrelated tangents: either way the listener tends to tilt her chin, furrow her brow and look at me to translate. I know how hard it is to carry on a conversation with them, but I know of no shortcuts. I, too, have to say, "What do you mean?" or "Say that more slowly and clearly." In fact, sometimes I ask, "Are we having a conversation or are you just talking?"

These past few months have been particularly tough. How are you feeling? What are you doing for yourself? Sometimes things are lousy and, trust me, you do not want to hear the truthful answer. Please don't ask.

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