An old fashioned telephone handset in black with a chord running out of frame
An old fashioned telephone handset in black with a chord running out of frame

Dear Paul, I’m waiting for a phone call I know will never come.

Paul Kiernan

Many years ago, my sister and I had a fight; I have been waiting for an apology for a long time.

Dear Paul,

Many years ago, my sister and I had a fight. I won't go into detail about the fight, but I will say that she was the instigator of the fight, of that I’m sure. I have been waiting for an apology for a long time. We’ve spoken, but only when necessary, and the conversations are quick and stressful. I believe enough time has passed, and she should call me and apologize. Is that fair, or should I call her? I just don’t want her to think she won. Any advice?


Pen Without Pal

Scrabble tiles spelling out, please forgive me

Dear Pen,

This is a situation that I have encountered often, and my opinion has changed due to my being in the position now. I’ll get to that in a moment. Right now, I will do my best to offer some advice while avoiding as many cliches as possible.

First off, you’ve both lost. Accept that because it is the truth. And you will continue to lose until someone invents a time machine, and you can go back and say all that you should, need, or want to say. So, if you’re willing to bet it all on that impossible invention, go right ahead.

If you’re not living in a science fiction fantasy, then you’ll know that time goes one way, and it goes that way very quickly. You get out of bed one morning and realize that ten years have crawled away and your time on this side of the dirt is quickly expiring. It doesn’t matter how many watches you wear; there will never be enough time. That’s a fact. No one ever completes their to-do list before they shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s impossible. If we live with eyes, ears, and hearts wide open, there will always be more to do and see, and the hunger for experience is rarely satiated.

You can ride as many roller coasters, see as many foreign lands, eat as many lush meals as life has on offer; none of it will compare to the moment you say enough and pick up the phone and call your sister. Once you do that, then your Saturday night franks and beans will taste like a five-Michelin-star meal.

Now some truth. I didn’t make that call. I didn’t put my pride behind me. Then, my brother died. Now the call will never be made, the voice will never be heard again, and that personal laughter between siblings will never ring out. I could easily say, well, he never called me. But, trust me, that’s cold comfort when you think of something funny that you know they would love to hear, and you reach for the phone, then remember, he’s no longer accepting calls because, hopefully, the afterlife is bliss and there are no fucking cell phones.

Be they family or friend, if you have the impulse to call, follow that impulse. This isn’t a new revelation to the world; good lord, the Hallmark channel cranks out movies based on this idea. But it feels very different when the story isn't on a screen but resides in your pocket. You can turn off the Hallmark channel; you cannot turn off your heart.

Make the call, let her win if that’s what you think will happen. Ask yourself, what is it that she wins? You get your sister back; you get to connect deeply again, and you can feel good about making the first move. In that light, you both chalk up a pretty big win.

I lost. Time. A brother. A chance. I lost, and I’d give anything if I could have let him win. 

Make the call. 

I hope that helps.

Have a question, problem, or conundrum that you think Paul can help with, drop him a line at; he’ll do his best to help or make it worse; who knows with him.