Well, I made it home. And, guess what? It was still snowy when I arrived! My worries that I’d miss the snow melt were for nothing!
Remember how you said it was important for me to get back home because people here needed me?
You were right.
When I arrived, Bo and Patches were both standing in their room, not speaking to each other. Patches looked mad, and Bo, he just looked forlorn.
I’ve never seen my little brother look that way.
They both broke out in smiles when they saw me, and, for the moment, their troubles seemed forgotten.
The next morning, though, I made sure to spend a little time with each of them. I’ve been gone for a while, and a lot can change in a family in the time it takes to get a degree.
Bo and I worked out together. It gave us a chance to catch up while doing something–kind of took the pressure off of talking about difficult things.
Eventually, Bo came out with it. “She hates me,” he said. “I deserve it. I’m rotten to the core. But it still sucks. I thought she’d have my back to the end.”
It was Patches he was talking about. I thought about it while we continued working out. My IF Riley and I are so close–even though we’re different, I feel like she can read my mind.
I bet Patches can read Bo’s mind, too.
Shannon, have you ever been so close to someone that you could read their mind? If that person has friendly thoughts, it can be nice. It can bring the two of you closer. But what would happen if that person didn’t always have the most generous of thoughts? What if some of those thoughts were even destructive or mean?
I found Patches playing chess on the computer.
She and I aren’t that close, so I wasn’t really sure how to approach this.
“You ever get inside your opponent’s mind when you’re playing chess?” I asked her, cringing at how obvious I thought I was being.
But Patches was interested in the question. “I can’t really read their minds,” she said. “But sometimes, it’s as if I can, because I can figure out the lines of possibles moves, and then based on my analysis of their play, I can predict which one they’ll choose, so it’s as if I can. But in truth, there’s only one person whose mind I can read, and that’s Bo.”
I wasn’t really sure how to proceed. What would you have done, Shannon? Would you have even gotten involved?
Part of me felt like not intruding, but when I saw how sad Bo looked, I couldn’t just ignore it. I feel like if I notice something, it’s for a reason. So if I notice that there are problems between my brother and his IF, then it seems like it’s up to me to say something. I mean, what if I didn’t say anything and they just went on being miserable? At least if I say something, the worse thing that can happen is that they get mad at me for interfering. And that’s not so bad!
Bo and I headed out to join Riley at the tea table. I figured it might help to have Riley’s perspective.
“So how did you all get along while I was gone?” I asked. Yeah, you know me, Shannon–I’m not really subtle.
“Beautifully,” Bo said.
“Well,” Riley confessed, “Sometimes we got along beautifully.”
She poured a little more tea and looked at Bo.
“And sometimes not,” she said. “It’s natural for teenagers to be moody, and I guess sometimes bad moods can be taken out on other people.”
“I keep it to myself,” Bo said, “when I feel that way. I don’t see what the big deal is.”
I remembered how angry I’d felt sometimes when I was a teen. There were days when I wanted to stop being friends with my mom, when I wanted to skip school, and when the whole world just sucked. I tried to keep it to myself and not act on any of it, but my mom was pretty good at figuring it out, anyway.
“Riley,” I said, “You know how you always say that you can read my thoughts?”
“Oh, sure,” she replied. “It’s that way with all IFs and their person. I mean, after all, it was your thoughts, initially, that brought us to life.”
“Uh-huh. I guess it was pretty lucky that you spent most of my teen years in my mom’s closet. What do you think it would’ve been like for you if you’d been around when I was having rotten thoughts and feelings?”
“I wouldn’t have minded,” Riley said. “I would have understood. Unless they were mean thoughts about me.”
“They might have been,” I said, “unless I learned to reel it in a bit when I was feeling hormonal.”
“Can you control your thoughts?” Bo asked.
“You can be aware of them, at least,” I said. “And then if you end up having a thought that’s ungenerous, you can not fuel it with emotions by just watching it pass.”
Shannon, do you think that was an OK approach for me to take? I thought about being more direct and letting Bo know that when he thinks mean thoughts about Patches she picks up on them, and that’s what causes the distance between them. But I also thought that he might be more responsive if I came at it from an angle. I don’t know. I’m not very good at helping my brother with complicated interpersonal relationships. What would you have done?
It might have been OK that I took that approach, for you know what he said next?
“That sounds like an art. An art of the mind. I’m not sure I can only have beautiful thoughts. In fact, I’m pretty sure, no, I can’t. I don’t even know what comes first, the thought or the feeling.”
I told him that not knowing was a start and he could watch to see what did come first.
I don’t know, Shannon. I’m not sure anything I said made a difference or helped at all. But I did notice that afternoon that he and Patches were talking, then they were joking, and then they were sitting together to play a game of chess.
That afternoon, I found Riley standing at the upstairs window looking out over the back meadow.
“Your feelings were right,” she said, just as if she’d read my mind. “Letting Bo discover on his own how his thoughts and feelings are intertwined and how they affect those he lives with, that’s the right approach.”
I joined Riley, and together, we watched the snow melt.
Shannon, what’s a family? We share all these tangles of emotions and habits in this shared space, and we have all this history and tradition. We get defined by the thoughts we hold of each other. I think part of what drew me to you was a sense of freedom I felt from you–you define yourself. But didn’t you say to me, shortly before I left, that you found something of yourself when you were with me, something you had never known existed?
Riley leaned against me and smiled while we watched the grass showing itself for first spring. “Everything’s right,” she said. “Now, when it all feels good, and even before, when it felt messed up. The whole of everything is right.”
Life’s not really simple, is it, Shannon?
I’ve just been home a few days, and I miss you already. What do you say to coming to Moonlight Falls for a visit? I’m sure this valley would love to see you! And the valley is not alone in that wish…