Richard Aiken MD, PhD
I cannot remember exactly when it was that working with my son on the restoration of our log cabin in the country was transformed from misery to mystical. Certainly not in the beginning, when we had to remove decades of decaying material from the interior of the 1840’s structure, practically indistinguishable from the trash itself. Nor was this transformation present during its relocation as we dug the basement in the rocky Missouri soil, seemingly either powder dry or muddy at any given time, and then hitting bedrock at four feet deep.
No, those were the days when we worked in an area so remote as to have no access to the airwaves for cellular communication, no electronic social media such as text messaging so basic for my teen son's survival.
In our isolation, we went through several stages of grief including anger and bargaining – I think we missed denial – until we settled on acceptance. By then my son learned that I was neither cruel and ignorant nor super-human. We discovered a curious new form of communication, not requiring electronic technology, or even words.
We communicated better with the distraction of the work – but it was the silence between us that spoke the loudest – a silence not of the awkward kind but the peaceful kind; an understanding reached between a loving father and son working in unison toward a common goal. I knew when he needed more nails, he knew when I needed help lifting a log. We both knew we needed each other.
Our simple tasks were noble with rhythm to it. The wood in the logs came to life with our heartbeats, our sweat, speaking truths.
I hope I shall never finish working on this log cabin; never stop the silent dialogue.