For people who know my husband and me, you know that neither Dave nor I are big talkers. We are not people who like the spotlight or attention. Often times, we are the ones choosing to listen to others rather than speaking ourselves. I am sure my students at school would disagree and think I talk way too much at times, but generally in our family, the main talker has always been my oldest son, Holt.
It was obvious, even at a young age, that Holt was different than Dave or me because he was never without questions or comments about every topic. From the typical “Why…?” to “What if…?” questions asked by all small children to general conversation about any topic you could think of, the boy never met a person he could not talk to. Even if conversation ever slowed to a pause, you could count on Holt to interject his humor by providing jokes he had heard or comedy routines he had watched online. So many times he would make himself laugh at his own corny joke or a funny story. He would get so tickled retelling us funny stories that he would have to stop talking to laugh for a while before he could finish. A wide smile would stretch across his face and he’d be laughing so hard that his nose would wrinkle up and big blue eyes would have to close up tight until he could get it all out. We would get more tickled at him laughing at himself than anything else.
I remember a trip Holt and I took with sweet Kelly Popwell when he was just four years old. Hunter was a only a few months old, so he stayed at home while we went to watch Dave and Kelly’s husband, Keith, compete in a tactical competition in south Florida. It was a long drive so we had plenty of time in the car. Kelly and I rode in the front with Holt buckled up tight in the backseat. With Kelly being so quiet and introverted, I quickly became the main conversationalist. I tried to think of topic after topic that would engage her in conversation. I will never forget that trip because every time I would ask Kelly a question to hopefully initiate dialogue during the long drive, Holt would jump in to the conversation with his own comments. If I asked her something specific, it would not take him long to say, “Mama, did you know….” or “Mama, remember the time…” The more I tried to talk to Kelly, the more Holt tried to talk to both of us. In the middle of waiting for Kelly to continue the conversation, any time he heard a pause, Holt would jump in. I would have to turn around to listen or answer him while hurriedly trying to get back to keep the dialogue going with Kelly. This happened so many times that it was making me aggravated with my four year old motor mouth. Questions, comments, interjections, stories from his four years of life experiences, and a little comedy here and there; you name it, the boy would not shut up! The more I tried to engage Kelly, the more Holt got in the conversation. Two ends of the conversation spectrum from super quiet to super talkative were riding in the car with me. I honestly prayed that he would take a nap and be quiet, but he was far too excited about where we were going and that he was getting to see his daddy show his tactical skills. Despite my eye rolling cues, hinting for him to stop talking so much, even to the point of telling him to let me talk to Mrs. Kelly for a while, that boy kept rambling. Bless Kelly’s heart, her ears were probably burning by the time we arrived. I bet she was amazed at how much that little kid could talk.
I look back on that trip now, and I would give anything to be riding in that car again with both of them. I would crawl in the backseat this time right beside Holt and do nothing but listen. Lately, during this time of staying home, most of us have had the opportunity to slow down and listen. Despite the fact that it has been forced on us, it has been a time of good reflection for me. I have thought so much about the days when my boys were young. Although some days were noisy and challenging, I miss those days. I miss it all.
It would be easy to look back on life and realize all that has changed and become sad about that. Even with the changes we have seen in just the past two months, it would be easy to focus on what feels taken away. Regular routines that we now long for again. Sometimes it is hard to imagine life ever feeling “normal” again, but in time a “new normal” will return, and hopefully we will be more thankful for it.
When I think about Holt’s “new normal” in heaven, I realize that if he and I were riding in the backseat of that car today, he would never be able to tell me all the things he has seen and witnessed since he had been in heaven. My ears would not be able to hear fast enough nor my brain be able to comprehend the speed of that boy’s words. He would be constantly saying, “Mama, did you know…” and “Mama, you will love …” Rather than rolling my eyes wide to signal for him to be quiet, I would stare at him, daring to blink only when necessary, because I would not want to miss a single detail from his journey. His smile would be so wide. His eyes so full of life, and I am certain he would have to stop and laugh while trying to tell me all about his adventures.
One day, I know that opportunity will come. We may not be in the backseat of Kelly’s car, but we will all be together again. The stories will be told. The details I will see for myself. I long for that day. That feeling of togetherness and a “new perfect normal” will last forever.
Take time to listen. Listen to those you love. Laugh with them. Engage them in conversation. Build a memory during this strange time that makes you smile when you think about it. Some day you will be glad that you did.
“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Psalm 40:5