The ‘All Right’ Lie

Hush… It’s going to be all right

Dearest Rachel –

It’s a lie that we tell our children. In the most extreme case at present, a Ukranian father has to tell them as he bundles them off with their mother; they are to head for the border and relative safety, while he must stay behind to defend the home – and homeland – they’re leaving. He’ll follow them (or they’ll be able to return) once everything is sorted, but until then… he leaves them with this line. But it’s not exclusive to a war zone – or at least, not a literal war zone. Mommy and Daddy will tell a child this – separately, of course – although from the raised voices on the other side of the door, the child already knows so much better. Even if it’s only a struggle regarding finances, or other such concerns, and not an actual fight between the two of them, the child somehow intuitively knows that things are not, in fact, all right, but so desperately wants to believe they are that they let their parents’ words soothe them… for now.

It’s a lie that we tell our parents. Now that we are part of the ‘sandwich’ generation, where we need to take care of both children and parents, we find ourselves having to reassure those who used to have to reassure us. How can you keep telling your mother over and over what happened to her husband each time she forgets, and asks as to where he is? When he worries about who will take care of the medical bills – and how they’ll be dealt with? Even if you have answers, they aren’t necessarily simple enough for them to absorb anymore. Once upon a time, they could grasp these things, but not any longer, and it’s just too much of a drain to constantly go into detail as to how everything is going to work out. And that’s assuming everything is being taken care of. Too often, there’s a loose thread – or an entire spool – that’s beyond your ability to deal with, but is there any point in concerning them with these difficulties anymore? It would just cause them further anxiety, and that would do them absolutely no good. So we tell them this, possibly adding an oversimplified story to address their concerns, and hope against hope they don’t question us, or resent what they might well perceive as our patronizing tone toward them.

It’s a lie that we tell to ourselves. We are by nature the proverbial ostrich, wanting desperately for our troubles to go away – maybe if we ignore them, they’ll realize we mean them no harm, and pass us by. Maybe if we put on a happy face and go about our lives, no one will notice. “Fake it ’till you make it,” right? We’ll make it, yeah. Everything will sort itself out eventually. Besides, everyone else has their own problems; there’s nothing to be gained by dumping ours onto others. Like with our parents, they can’t solve anything for us, so why trouble them? We’d just be ‘that guy,’ the boring downer at the party, and we can’t have that, now, can we?

It’s a lie I was telling myself – and Daniel – as we followed Larry to the hospital. We didn’t know the extent of your injuries, and we just thought you’d be laid up for a while from the impact you’d taken to your chest. When I called church, I really thought we’d just be staying up at Froedert hospital for an extended period of time – and therefore, you wouldn’t be available to work in the nursery the following day – but that at some point, we’d all be coming home. But I should have known better. Ellen told me that when I mentioned they were doing chest compressions on you, that she actually prayed that you would let go of this world, because she somehow knew that, at best, you would be left paralyzed from that point on. I don’t blame her; I’m not sure I would react well to permanent immobilization, and I’m a fairly sedentary guy. It would not have suited you at all.

And everything’s all right with you, now, isn’t it? You’re in heaven, enjoying everything the Lord has to offer His good and faithful servants. So why shouldn’t I be glad about that for your sake?

And why am I not, when I wake up to a silent house? Everything is all right down here, isn’t it? The house is clean, rooms are available, I can go where I want when I want (subject to certain self-imposed responsibilities, of course). Any needs – even most wants – can be taken care of without difficulty. I don’t have the fears of the father in Kyiv, or the child juggling ailing parents – yet – and I know you’re in a better place – the best place of all, in fact.

Life is good, isn’t it? Everything is going to be all right.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

Is that a sin, honey?

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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