Please Do Not Reach Out to Me

Jill, my beloved, has a great BS detector.  She catches trendy phrases that are empty and useless quite quickly and grows to hate them.  Fast. 

Hers is “Reach Out to –”  As in “I reached out to ____”.  Will you “reach out to ___ tomorrow and see if we can close this deal?” 

Mine is “It’s complicated.” 

Both should now be banished to scriptwriter Hades, maledicted, and dispensed with forthwith and post haste.  Forever.  Amen.

Why?  We trivialize both.  I have a couple of images of reaching out emblazoned in my mind, burnished into my memory because they were so poignant, so beautiful, almost beatific. 

One was a daughter who had left home in such a fury a couple of decades before booking the flight to go home before her father who had taken sick could die.  She flew across the country, rented the car, drove to the hospital where the step mother held sway and walked in to see her dad.  She had to reach back to both of them, if she was ever to spend any moments, see any closure, steal any moments on this side of death. 

The other was a hot August afternoon in Beaumont when I had accompanied my father to two doctor visits with my brother driving and then we went to re-hab.  He was terrible.  He genuinely hated being in rehab, and as a doctor who had prescribed it for thousands, I was stumped.

We were now home.  Sitting on the back porch where I was sweating and he was comfortable and I asked him, “Are you going to fight this?”

He sat silently for minutes.  He then reached up and articulated five things that were taking their toll all at the same time inside him.  He counted them on his fingers for me.  Five.  Then with moist eyes, he reached for my hand, told me how much he loved his wife, my mom, and nodded at me.  Wordless.

He reached out to me, showing me how to face death, parting from your beloved, and making sure someone takes care of her. 

Calling someone for an appointment.  Texting someone.  Putting a hashtag in front of your tweet to them.  Emailing an update.  NONE of those actually “reach out” to anyone unless they end in a touch.  Consummate in a conversation where you can see the other’s eyes, hear them breathe, know their unspoken thoughts.  That is reaching out.  All else is less,  Reaching out is hard and human and connected.  We have trivialized it to mean digital communication that we had rather not do. 

Please, do not use ‘reach out’ that way.  Say “Call, email, tweet, whistle”, — anything more precise.  We tend to trivialize and cheapen so many, many great words. 

Oh, and life has complexities and textures and interconnections and questions.  Act.  Act on your hope or wish.  Never use “it’s complicated” to excuse sitting and watching relationships die.  The friend on the plane had a zillion complications to keep her from flying and entering that hospital room to salvage two relationships.  My father had a thousand reasons to continue being private and strong at that hot August table on the porch, rather than shamelessly ticking off the five that would end his wife and wordlessly passing the care of his beloved to a son who must have looked more like he did in high school than the white haired man at the table. 

So act.  Truly reach out to someone who is dying of “complications” wondering where you are. 

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