Common Ground

Sometimes men find difficulty in finding common ground. They can argue bicker and fight, just like women. We just sound different. So, do we have any common ground – all of us, or most of us?

In the early stages of my career, I was a police officer stationed in Auckland, and at this particular time in the central control room.

It was night shift, the early hours of one morning, when the occasional red light came up on the switchboard. When you pushed the button, you never knew what you where going to get; June with the Tune, wanting to play you a song to cure her insomnia, or a nuclear explosion.

A man introduced himself. I knew the name in an instant. A prominent Auckland lawyer, whom I had dealt with at court.

I was equal to the occasion with my professionalism and immediately on guard. He wouldn’t get out of bed at this time of the morning and ring the control room for nothing.

He may have picked that.

His voice changed and it became, a very human, ordinary voice – the voice of a man.

He said, “I’m ringing to report a sudden death. We’ve just found our son dead in his cot.”

I heard his pain, his loss. The professionalism went out the window, and I made it as easy as I could, while we did what was necessary.

I said, “We’ll be there shortly.” Which I could say with some certainty, as it wasn’t a busy night.

That phone call was a defining moment for me as a man and a father (which I wasn’t then) I was still a single man, and it was a long time ago, but it is an occasion that has never been far from my mind.

When children came along, they were in a basinet beside our bed.

When I came home in the wee hours of the morning, I would rest a finger on their cheek and listen to their breathing. If I was in bed for the night, and I woke up, I would listen for their breathing, and if I couldn’t hear anything, I’d get up. Sometimes I would just get up anyway, and spend a moment, reassuring myself that even though I wasn’t there a lot of time, I was still there for them.

There was a dread of course that I could just as easily be another phone call to the control room, which fortunately never happened, or I could be the one making that phone call, and that was never far from my mind.

Perhaps in this day and age it is an interesting experience, as fathers may not so often relate to each other, or in many cases, even to their children.

It’s a story I haven’t ever told my children, and of course they wouldn’t realise how much of my attention was devoted to them in that first 6 months of their lives, valuing every moment, just in case.

Just in case, it was me.