There are those moments in relationships you’ll never forget in your life. One of those I won’t forget was when I sent I tape to Ireland with songs I really really liked – but, as it turned out, didn’t really fully understand. Those were the days when you couldn’t just whatsup or skype to double-check. Those were the days when we had to wait for Mary to get a quiet moment in the exchange to put a free call through to Germany.

I never watched the video of “Hard to say I’m sorry” by Chicago (it would have destroyed the song for me) and didn’t understand the lyrics but just thought it was a very beautiful song. Until the girl I had sent it to years later told me that when she received the tape with the song, together with my love letter, she couldn’t stop wondering whether there was an unspoken message in this. Like

Everybody needs a little time away,” I heard her say, “from each other.”
“Even lover’s need a holiday far away from each other.”
Hold me now. It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry.

When she said it, when she recited and explained the lyrics to me, I realised that I had just very narrowly avoided absolute disaster, taping and sending this beautiful song, this message of love (I thought), in utter ignorance of its meaning.

Apart from becoming part of my own personal folklore, this ‘story’ told me that whatever you intend to say, might not be what you’re saying, and might be far from what is being understood at the receiving end – which might lead to a reaction that could just be the opposite to what you had expected. Taking stuff like that, absolute innocent wrong-message-packing and misinterpretations, into account can avoid fatal outcomes.

This is what makes a therapist an excellent therapist. Coming up with new stuff, new exercises, new ways to have fun while recovering function. It’s not just knowing how muscles and joints and nerves are connected. It’s also, and equally important, about being creative, connected, understanding, about creating these moments when Pádraig feels that he can do new stuff, that his incredible efforts are paying off. Today he had one of those.

Not just one but at least two – because in the afternoon, during his speech and language therapy, he also managed to use the switch, his bleeper with his *hand* for answering questions, for doing a quiz, and for maths challenges. The therapist had the brain wave to invite his friends to a session with her to see how they could make use of that bleeper to get Pádraig involved.

A good day, though still with echoes of terrible sadness and loss. But a good day.

(Thankfully, the recipient of my tape with this song by Chicago realised my innocence, or rather ignorance, and decided that Germans are incapable of sending ‘encoded’ messages and took the song for what it had been for me: just a nice song with lyrics I didn’t understand:)