Photo: I haven’t taken any pictures lately. We’ve been rushing to and fro so much that Kodak moments have been missed! So, take this throwback pictures. I took this of the boys around this time 2 years go. Minor could barely sit up when I took this photo and it was all I could do to keep Major in the seat long enough to snap a few pics. I thought, maybe, I could take my own picture for the Christmas cards. I was… naive…
When my phone rang and my Father’s name was on the caller id, I braced myself.
My Father never calls me. The running joke (that he tells) is that his phone only works one way. You want to talk to him, you gotta call him. It’s just how it works. He’ll text you, maybe. Send an email with news sometimes. But if you want to communicate with him, you’d better be the one to initiate.
So when his name was on the caller id, I thought one thing: my grandmother died.
Seriously. Why the hell else would he call me? Something catastrophic must have happened.
“You’ve been yelling at me about my generation being worthless and stuff. And now you young people are up and protesting. So I called because I wanted to know: are you out protesting?”
I was relieved and confused.
“Nope. I live 50 minutes away from the nearest protests and I have two babies. I have chosen the pen to express my protest rather than my feet.”
He gloated. How can I pass judgement and then not step up when called. We had a philosophical debate about the merits of protest and what it looks and feels like.
And I wondered why my Father was calling me.
It seems that all he wanted was to connect and shoot the shit. His 18 month-old was having a quiet moment, his 10 year-old was playing video games, and I guess he needed to have an adult conversation. So he called his 30 year-old daughter. He knew that he could call and I would answer. He knew that it wouldn’t take much to keep me engaged.
And, even though I wanted to tell him I was busy (I was) and even though I can still distinctly remember our conversation about “legacy” and whatever from the last time we talked on the phone (back in August, right?), I stayed. And chatted. And shared and laughed. And so we both got exactly what we needed, even though they were two totally different needs.
We are enriched by the relationships that we keep, even the ones that are challenging. We don’t have to interact all the time, and maybe some interactions should be briefer than others, but I’m finding that though it may be more difficult to dig into the relationships I don’t always enjoy, I find depth in them all the same. They make me better. My Father makes me a better person not only because he’s the man who raised me, but because his challenges make me think deeper, try harder, tap into different resources of patience and tact. He’s my best sparring partner. He always will be.
The temptation, of course, is then to spend more time with him. To include him more in the day-to-day stuff that makes my life what it is. That would be unwise: the quality is only good when the quantity is significantly reduced. It gives us more opportunity to fight about the fun things, less opportunity to fight about the stupid ones. This relationship requires discipline and focus. It takes patience.
Longtime readers are probably screaming: You need to apply this knowledge to your in-laws!
Yes. I know. I’m working on it. That’s a harder puzzle to solve, though just as vital with seemingly higher stakes.
The holidays are tough for so many reasons. Though this isn’t a Quiet Thoughts post, I’m feeling reflective about what we are all going through as a collective: balancing that projection of happiness and cheer with all of the stress and anxiety we’re feeling for getting it all done, finding the right gift, saying the right words, performing the right motions. It’s a hard time for everyone, and the closer we get to the finish line, the more stressful it gets.
So I guess I’m writing this little post to say, first, I totally get it. It’s hard for me, too. I’m also writing it to say that, if I can try, you probably can, too. Life is so impossibly possible, you know? Luck is helpful, discipline is better and even just a small slice of wisdom can save just about anything. So stay focused dear reader, take a few deep breaths, and remember that even the challenging relationships are precious for their own reasons.
I’m going to close out the week and the year at the same time with my Quiet Thoughts. See you Friday.