Photo: Back in the good old days, when the boys weren’t at each other’s throats all the time. What can I do to insure that they are always loving, friendly?
Yesterday was such a good day. The boys were pretty great (unlike Easter, when they were a hot mess) and it was nice to reconnect with my mother and step-father, who I haven’t seen or a couple of weeks. We watched football and cooked, cackled about this and that. Mom being Mom, it took a while for her to get passed the surface and talk about the deeper things. Sometimes, I feel like I have a great connection with her, and then other times, she feels very distant. It is a very odd dance that we seem to be doing.
But it was time well spent yesterday. Time very well spent.
I’m thinking a lot about time today. It is such a precious thing, and something that many of us take for granted. Especially in our 20s, I think it is hard to sit down and think that whatever time that we have here is limited, precious, precarious… We never know when it is going to run out. We cannot do anything about when that expiration date is. I’m not trying to get all morbid on you this Friday. But it is a hard reality nonetheless.
So if time is a precious gift given to us by an entity beyond our comprehension, then is it not the most precious gift that we can give to another person in this wonderful season? Who is worthy of your precious seconds and minutes? Who are the people you dedicate time undistracted, unabashed time to? Who do you not give that time to? Who have you deemed wholly unworthy?
I will tell you that one of the few “deep” conversations that my mother and I had yesterday was about my loud-mouthed cousin. We called down to Maryland right before dinner in hopes of talking to gathered kin, and of course, my cousin picked up the phone. Mom made small talk: “You’re going on a cruise? Where?” …. “oh, to Disney World? Isn’t that interesting?” …. “You’re going with that one friend, that’s real nice.” “Oh? When are you going to Niagara Falls? Does this mean you are coming to Boston to visit?”
When I heard this, thought to myself “Please sweet Jesus, no!”
And then my mother jumped and frowned, “Oh, I see…”
A pregnant pause.
“I do suppose it is out of the way. I mean, if you were going to take the time to come up here…”
A bit of relief on my part.
“So, where is your mother?” My mom was all set now…
After Mom was finished with her various conversations, she got off the phone.
My curiosity couldn’t wait anymore: “[Loud Mouth] is coming to Boston?”
Mom puts on a smile. “I asked her that, and she answered ‘Dear God, no.’”
I laughed. That’s just so loud mouth.
Mom, though, was a bit offended. “Who answers that? ‘Dear God, no’? Who would answer like that?”
That idiot. “I think that she hangs out with weird people and just parrots what they say. She doesn’t realize what she’s saying sometimes.”
Mom nodded and made a face. She believed it and didn’t believe it. The conversation went other places but then circled back around.
“You know, I feel bad that you and [loud mouth] aren’t closer…” She started. We’ve been through this before.
“I’m not. She’s a brat. I have a sister… and two brothers! I’m all set, thanks.”
“It’s just that, you know, I have a cousin who I don’t really talk to… It’s sort of sad…”
“Isn’t she crazy?”
“[Loud Mouth] and I speak.”
“Yes,” she concedes, “you are able to get together at family functions and be civil…”
“Exactly. I do my duties, mother. I’ve done everything you asked me to do, even when it was against my better judgment. I put that girl in my wedding. You can never tell me I didn’t do my duties.”
Mom nods, dissatisfied. “I can never say you didn’t do your duties,” she sighs, “I just wish we could have done something more to make this different.”
“I really think you guys tried too hard. Ya’ll should have stopped throwing us in rooms together pushing to make this work.”
“I don’t think that’s very true—“
“We can be blood without being friends,” I stated, finally.
“Ok fine, I’m done.” Mom silently starting putting food into serving dishes while I cut up our duck for serving.
I don’t feel bad about this exchange at all. My mother’s guilt is not my responsibility, and everything that I stated was true. I do my duties when it comes to my cousin when I’m asked to. I don’t actively curse her out when I see her and she is obnoxious. My cousin is a brat who is little fun to be around, and she doesn’t have many original thoughts—she just parrots what other people say. She’s eccentric, and not in a fun way. She’s not a person I want to give my time to.
So I don’t.
I made a decision some years ago, somewhere around college (where we shared a campus for two years) that I was no longer going to spend my precious time on her. When I choose to give my time to other people, and she just happens to be in the same room, then I am cordial, even warm, but outside of those times, I don’t give. I choose not to give.
And that’s ok.
I’m sure that there are people in your life who you choose not to give your time to. It may have been an easy choice, it may have been a difficult one. It may be one that still haunts you, or it may be one that keeps coming up that you don’t even reconsider.
What about the people who you wish you could give more time to? I think about my paternal grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, living in Florida now. I haven’t spoken to her or seen her in years. My efforts to do so have been thwarted. I miss her. On the other hand, at 3pm every Sunday, I call my maternal grandmother and give her at least 1 hour of my time. Without fail. And when I do fail, I’m pissed. I feel guilty about that time sometimes, because I love my grandmothers equally and powerfully. To know that I give such a large amount of time to one and not the other, pains me.
And then there is the time we can never get back, the time that we’ll always want to give but actually cannot. When I made that lemon meringue pie on Wednesday, I thought of my great-grandmother and my grandfather, both deceased. I missed my great-grandmother’s 100 birthday party because I was a first year RA welcoming residents to the building that day. I told myself that there would be other birthdays. She passed 6 months later. I missed my opportunity to say goodbye to my grandfather because it was an important time at work during my second year of teaching, and I thought he’d made it to spring break. It is one of my greatest regrets.
Time is precious. It marches on without us. It has no patience and less mercy.
And so, if it is so precious, who will you choose to give it to?
So many of our minds have focused on the great hunt for things to give to other people, and the wondering of what things we’ll get in return during this holiday season. But what will you give to the people who could care less about the material? For whom will your most precious gift mean more than all the tablets, flat screens, cars and trinkets that money can buy? When I think about the hours I will spend in Maryland over Christmas, and all of the people who want to see me between Richmond and DC, I’m so grateful that so many would want to have me for a spell. And so sad that I know that only a precious few will make it on my dance card. There are people who I know can wait. Others who I must see now. And still the others in between, who I can spent time on cooking/baking/sewing for… my time given in other ways. The preciousness is tangible, yes, but still precious.
Consider for a moment this Friday, the precious seconds of your life. Who you choose to give them to, and who you actively choose not to. And for the people in between, wonder for a moment if there is someone who is deserving of a little extra this year. Can you forge a deeper bond, bring a little joy, elevate a person down low, create something new and important… can you, through the precious time that only you can give, do something wonderful simply by being present? Even, maybe, when you are at your busiest?
I wish you a moment of precious time, this Friday, given unabashedly to someone who you love. I wish you a good glass of wine, poured by the hand of a dear friend or family member. I wish you a story from the mouth and mind of someone who has had significant time on this plant to wonder and wander. I wish you the opportunity to savor food, slow cooking and lovingly crafted. I wish you a moment snuggled with a partner, enjoying the steady heartbeat of the person you chose. I wish you joy.
See you Monday.