by Derra Grey
My father stopped talking to me because of a meat slicer.
Sounds bizarre, I know. So, I’ll start from the beginning.
A few years ago, my father had a sudden onset of heart trouble and needed emergency surgery to repair a valve in his heart. When he was released from the hospital, he was still weak and couldn’t get around very well, so he ended up staying with my sister because he couldn’t return to his apartment where he lived alone with its two flights of stairs and no elevator, not to mention it was 60 miles from both of us.
Realizing he couldn’t return to his apartment, he gave notice and my sister and I offered to pack up his belongings and put them in storage until he decided what he wanted to do.
The job proved to be quite an undertaking since he kept everything – and I mean everything. We had run out of boxes when finishing up with the kitchen cupboards and drawers, which were stuffed with years’ worth of things, one being a huge, metal meat slicer I found. It seemed like an easy decision to toss the cumbersome appliance, reasoning that he hadn’t even used it in the last 25 years.
We rented a big moving truck, hired a couple of guys to take all his possessions to storage. Six months later, he got his own place close by and we delivered all the stuff to his new home.
Soon after dad moved in, he called me and said he couldn’t find his meat slicer in any of the boxes. I told him we had thrown it out, there was just too much stuff and we made a judgment call. Seems he didn’t hear the we, he just came to blame only me.
My father clearly wasn’t happy, so irritated, in fact, that he stopped talking to me, even though I had apologized profusely and offered to buy him a new meat slicer. He adamantly said no to the slicer and, I guess, no to my apology.
I didn’t get too upset at first, figuring my sister would set the record straight when she found out he wasn’t talking to me, and tell him we both tossed the slicer. It would help diffuse the situation when he realized it wasn’t something we did to intentionally to hurt him. But she never did set the record straight.
Over a year passed and still the looming silence from my father. During that time, I thought about all the silent treatments I endured throughout my life from my parents, ones that lasted days, weeks and even months.
During this particularly long silent treatment, my father missed out on so many special moments, but I have since resolved that I am not willing to let his behavior define my worth. Although the silence is painful, it doesn’t begin to compare to the pain I feel when my value doesn’t even come close to a meat slicer.
I think the hardest part of all this was when I realized that my ever-growing resentment toward my sister for not stepping up, and just standing by silently while I took all the punishment, meant that now I was giving her the silent treatment.
During this rather eye-opening experience, I have gained self-awareness where, no matter what I was taught, what kind of environment I lived in, or what others are doing to me, it doesn’t give me an excuse to do the same; and in this case, dole out silent treatments. Clearly, I have a choice when it comes to my actions and how I treat others.
I picked up the phone and called my sister today, putting an end to the silence. For good.
A survey of more than 2,000 Americans conducted by Faulkner, et al, found that 67 percent admitted to deliberately using the silent treatment, while 75 percent indicated that they had been a target of the silent treatment by a loved one.