kin, kind, kindness

Sylvia says, ‘What do you suppose the cause is?’

John’s voice rasps, as if to cut it off, but I answer, ‘I don’t know. Causes and effects don’t seem to fit. Causes and effects are a result of thought. I would think mental illness comes before thought.’ This doesn’t make sense to them, I’m sure. It doesn’t make much sense to me and I’m too tired to try to think it out and give it up.

‘What do the psychiatrists think?’ John asks.
‘Nothing. I stopped it.’
‘Stopped it?’
‘Is that good?’
‘I don’t know. There’s no rational reason I can think of for saying it’s not good. Just a mental block of my own. I think about it and all the good reasons for it and make plans for an appointment and even look for the phone number and then the block hits, and it’s just like a door slammed shut.’
‘That doesn’t sound right.’
‘No one else thinks so either. I suppose I can’t hold out forever.’
‘But why?’ Sylvia asks.
‘I don’t know why . . . it’s just that . . . I don’t know . . . they’re not kin.’ . . . Surprising word, I think to myself, never used it before. Not of kin . . . sounds like hillbilly talk . . . not of a kind . . . same root . . . kindness, too . . . they can’t have real kindness toward him, they’re not his kin . . . That’s exactly the feeling.

Old word, so ancient it’s almost drowned out. What a change through the centuries. Now anybody can be ‘kind’. And everybody’s supposed to be. Except that long ago it was something you were born into and couldn’t help. Now it’s just a faked-up attitude half the time, like teachers the first day of class. But what do they really know about kindness who are not kin?

It goes over and over again through my thoughts . . . mein Kind — my child. There it is in another language. Mein Kinder . . . ‘Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind? Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind.’

Strange feeling from that.


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