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Unbroken Silence

Too many fathers never learn to communicate with their children, and the silence that begins in childhood remains unbroken. Playwright Moss Hart capsulized this kind of heartbreaking estrangement in his autobiography when he described a walk with his father on Christmas Eve the year he was ten. The Harts were quite poor, but Moss’s father took him down to 149th Street and Westchester in New York City that night, past countless toy vendors’ pushcarts. Moss strolled with his father past the carts, eyeing chemistry sets and printing presses with obvious longing.

“I looked up and saw we were nearing the end of the line. Only two or three more pushcarts remained. My father looked up, too, and I heard him jingle some coins in his pocket. In a flash I knew it all. He’d gotten together about seventy-five cents to buy me a Christmas present, and he hadn’t dared say so in case there was nothing to be had for so small a sum.

“As I looked up at him I saw a look of despair and disappointment in his eyes that brought me closer to him than I had ever been in my life. I wanted to throw my arms around him and say ‘It doesn’t matter ... I understand ... This is better than a chemistry set or a printing press ... I love you.’ But instead we stood shivering beside each other for a moment—then turned silently back home. I don’t know why the words remained choked up within me. I didn’t even take his hand on the way home, nor did he take mine. We were not on that basis.

From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings, by Ed Young, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publ., 1994), p. 32.