February 2013 CBA REPORT
on second thought
I stopped reading after those three
final words, and for a moment was
uncertain about turning to the next
page. But mere seconds passed before my
decision was made. Without further ex-
ploration, I tossed the notebook into the
large trash bag at my feet, which already
held the detritus of the other drawers.
Over our years together, unless of-
fered, we never read each other’s mail.
Although often discussed after the fact,
rarely did we even share phone conversa-
tions with our kids. Sporadically, I wrote
personal reflections in a journal. I didn’t
hide it away. Without ever speaking of it,
we honored each other’s privacy.
But was his privacy any longer a
consideration? Was that really the cause
of my decision, or was my hesitance to
continue reading born of something else
entirely? Might “
more joyous times”
ply a hidden dissatisfaction with his life,
with our marriage?
Len, usually a man of few casually
spoken words, in writing expressed him-
self clearly and with insight. Each of us
would, from time to time, put on paper
what was troubling us, and later share
either what we’d written, or the concerns
that had in this way been crystallized.
Eventually, we talked and talked.
Sometimes wept. Always, we came to-
gether. No longer possible.
Looking back, I believe this was my
thinking as I briefly held the small note-
book in my hand. Five years had passed
since the words had been written. What-
ever secret yearnings Len wrote down
on learning of his diagnosis, might later
have become part of our conversations,
may even have led to some meaningful
shifts in our lives. There were many. But
perhaps he had decided not to reveal to
me the private thoughts he’d had in mind
on that fateful day.
We owe no one complete disclosure.
Control over the measured sharing of
thoughts and feelings, the choices we
make in the daily dance of caring for a
relationship, is ours alone.
As our privacy is eroded in the public
arena, in ways both seen and unseen,
it can remain as protected as ever in
our personal lives. When a confidence
is shared with a trusted friend, or even
when we recognize an unspoken request
by those we love that a thought expressed
in words, or wordlessly, not be disclosed
to another, we can still relax with the
knowledge that our privacy is assured.
As I tossed the little notebook aside,
I knew, with barely time to take a breath
that the memory of Len I wanted and
cherished was of how he chose to be
known to me.
(Note: Every chance he got, Len did
indeed spend four of his last five years
flying off with a friend in his small plane
to go fishing in cold clear waters.)
Larsen is a senior mediator at the Center for
Resolution of Disputes. She received the 2007 John
P. Kiely Professionalism Award from the CBA, and
also served as CBA president in 1986-87. Her weekly
commentaries can be viewed at
ometime after my husband’s death,
I emptied his desk and found a
small spiral notebook jammed into
the very back of the top drawer, appar-
ently long forgotten. Written on the
first page was a date in April, five years
earlier, followed by the name of the phy-
sician who had diagnosed Len as having
Parkinson’s disease, a day sharply etched
in my memory.
About a month before consult-
ing with the neurologist, we had both
noticed a slight drag of one of his feet,
but just weeks earlier he had fallen and
turned an ankle when snowshoeing in
the Cascades with our son-in-law, so it
was easy for me to discount his awkward
gait. What I did not know at the time
was that Len had become aware of a
significant change in his handwriting,
the letters becoming small and cramped.
This symptom was one key to the initial
suspected, and later confirmed, diagno-
We left the medical office building
that morning and sat in the car wrapped
in each other’s arms, but only for a mo-
ment. There were no tears. Len calmly
drove us home. He met this news as he
had past challenges, with a stoic determi-
nation to just keep moving forward.
In his newly discovered little note-
book, beneath the name of the doctor,
Len had written:
live by the water
more joyous times
By Bea V. Larsen
But was his privacy any longer a consideration?