After updating her dad on the status of her job search during their weekly phone call, Phoebe Walsh’s father then asked, “What else is new?” for a third time, clearly straining to keep the conversation going for just a few minutes longer.
“It was a little rough,” commented Phoebe’s mom Mary. “He desperately wants to connect with Phoebe but doesn’t always have the conversational skills to pull it off.”
Despite her mom’s concern, Phoebe reports she is accustomed to her dad’s limited communicative range.
“I’m used to it,” said Phoebe. “I talk. He listens. When I finish speaking, he prompts me to continue without commenting on anything I’ve just said. This usually goes on for about 20 minutes.”
At one point in the phone call, Phoebe confessed that she was feeling lonely, having just moved to Los Angeles two months prior. Bill was reportedly heartbroken and sat in silence for a moment before finally responding.
“You’ll….uh…you’ll be fine,” said Bill.
Following this outpouring, Bill panicked that he had said the wrong thing, and immediately reverted back to his usual, “What else is going on?”
“Honestly,” said Phoebe, “I was touched by his response. He rarely diverges from his four-word script, so that was huge.”
“Each time he asks me what else is new,” continued Phoebe, “I have to dive deeper and deeper into what was exciting from my week until I’m grasping at straws. Like, I’ll talk about the vegan wild rice stew I made for dinner last night but that can’t be fun for anyone!”
Despite Mary’s calls from the next room to tell her about the crab feed he went to with his church friends the night before, Bill kept his own responses brief.
“Oh, nothing on my end,” said Bill. “Anything new with your roommates?”
“Sometimes I wonder if he’s even listening,” confessed Phoebe, “but he must be getting something out of it.”
After hanging up, Bill told Mary that he and Phoebe had a really nice conversation.
“He was glowing,” said Mary. “The first thing he told me was that he already can’t wait for their phone call next Sunday.”