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How Are You?

Eugene, Bruce, and Noah Fertman

Eugene, Bruce, and Noah Fertman

It was the end of class. There were a few minutes left. I asked if anyone had any questions. Mizuho, a new Alexander Alliance teacher, asked me how I listen to a student.

As usual, I sat there silently for about 20 seconds waiting for an honest answer to arise. Then it did.

Let me tell you how my father, at the end of his life, listened to people. He’d sit down with someone and ask them, how are you, and he’d really mean it. My Dad’s ego died a couple of years before he did. His life no longer circled around itself.

His friend, and it seemed everyone was his friend, whether he knew them or not, would talk about themselves, and when they finished, only when they had finished, my Dad would ask them a question. What was that like? And then what happened? How did that make you feel?

His friend would continue, sometimes for a long time. But, ironically, now that my Dad had so little time left, he lived as if he had all the time in the world.

Five days before my Dad died he was in the Intensive Care Unit. He was having a lot of trouble breathing. A nurse comes in and my father asks, how are you? She tells my Dad, “I’m exhausted! Last night I went to night school after a 10-hour shift. My daughter was up most of the night with an earache. This morning, at 6, I grabbed a cup of coffee and a donut, got on the bus, and punched into work at 7 for another 10-hour shift.” How was your daughter in the morning? And then, what are you studying in night school? You’re amazing. I’m sure that will pay off in the long run for you and your daughter. And then, How old is your daughter? What’s her name? As the nurse is about to leave, my Dad thanks her for being so kind to him.

I tell Mizuho that when I’m teaching well, I listen like my Dad listened. Sometimes, I feel that he’s still asking me how I am, still sitting there by me, still listening as if he had all the time in the world.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Excellent. I linked to this in a comment on “The New Vulcan Mind Meld.”

    March 16, 2014
  2. It reminded me so much of my own mother who died with terminal cancer. She had one of those lives that, if people saw it in a hollywood production and were told it was based on one persons life, would probably come out saying that some of it must have been made up! I think the thing I remember most about her (and the story if her life I knew nothing or hardly anything about until after she died and I found her diaries (almost hollywood in itself!) was that she was never bitter, always optimistic, never looked to hurt or abuse another living thing and was always concerned for the other person – genuinely so, right until the end. How lovely to have worked with Sally Swift! I have her books:articles etc. Yes I do love horses – well all that this earth blesses us with really! Lovely to make contact with you

    March 1, 2014
  3. beautiful I wish more people would think from within instead of just answering from without

    February 28, 2014
    • victoria. i see you love horses. i was friends with sally swift. she came to my school and taught us comparative anatomy. The two of us taught a workshop together at Mt. Holyoke. And i had the pleasure to train a couple of her senior teachers. she was great. glad you liked the little piece about my dad.

      February 28, 2014

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