Keepers

“Often we allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. We lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year’s time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody. No, let us devote our life to worthwhile actions and feelings, to great thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings.” ~ Andre Maurois

I just spent a week visiting my mother, siblings and their families on the East Coast. As is often the case, it was a whirlwind agenda with much to do and fleeting time in which to see and accomplish ‘everything.’ Without doubt, it was time enjoyed and well spent.

On one of my return flights I had as a seatmate, a Medical Director, who oversaw the Palliative Care/Hospice program at a large hospital. We had an interesting conversation about aging and care for people diagnosed with terminal illness. I mentioned a talk I had two days earlier with my mother. While she is still blessed with sound mind and body, it was one of those parent/child conversations that is better had when all can be clearly communicated and understood – rather than waiting until it’s too late.

Exhausted when I finally got home and to bed (it was a day of considerably diverted travel), I didn’t immediately fall asleep. In those waning minutes before generous slumber prevailed, I thought about my mother and the fact that she’s not getting younger. I reflected on all that she has accomplished in her life and the incredible job she has done as a model matriarch.

Today I was sifting through accumulated email (yes, I untether from the digital world when vacationing) and came across a recent piece from a friend. It was both poignant and significant. As a ‘returning post’ I am sharing it with you as I believe many will relate to the message. There was no accompanying attribution.

I grew up with practical parents. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen before they had a name for it. A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee-shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, and dish-towel in the other. It was a time for fixing things. A curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we kept.

It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, eating, renewing, I wanted to just once be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.

But then my mother died, and on that clear summer’s night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t any more.

Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away…never to return. So… while we have it… it’s best we love it… And care for it… And fix it when it’s broken… And heal it when it’s sick.

This is true. For marriage… And old cars… And children with bad report cards… And dogs with bad hips… And aging parents… And grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with.

There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special… And so, we keep them close!

Treasured people are like stars… You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there. Keep them close!

There are no tips, helpful hints, or suggested steps with this post. My sense is that most readers will ponder then, perhaps, act in alignment with their unique self.

10 thoughts on “Keepers

  1. Welcome back! Glad you had a good trip. You say there are no tips, but even then there is much to be learned and gained from this post. I mean, it wouldn’t be one of your posts otherwise! And I love that. And I love this post. It’s beautiful and conveys a very important message. It’s important to appreciate what you’ve got while you do. By the way, I really appreciate your posts. 🙂

  2. Like you, I’ve had to have the not so easy conversations with my parents. I’ve had to be the one to tell my dad he had cancer in 2001. He was post-surgery. The surgeon, a very good friend of the family, could not bring himself to tell him. My mother and my sibs were all too shell-shocked. I thought that the entire matter was ridiculous. Here was my father, 5 days post-op, behaving like a bear, indignant he was in the hospital. It was sobering. I had to tell him or else he would refuse the chemo that had to come after. Sigh!

    Now that he’s 12 years cancer-free, I had to sit down and talk to my parents again. This time, the conversation was again quite grim. And yes, no one else could tell them…..

    • While the conversations are not always convenient, they’re often essential. It’s often easy to defer them because the time or topic is uncomfortable. I believe most of us are glad that we have them, when we do. Thank you for sharing your personal experience.

  3. Such a wonderful post and I just love that piece from your friend. It reminds me of my parents and the age they lived in. So practical, simple and down to earth. Thanks Eric

    • My pleasure, Don. It was one of those stories that I wanted (and believed needed to be) share/d. I periodically wonder if given the choice to live in a past or future generation, which would I choose. The more I reflect, the more I lean toward going back – for the same reasons you cite. Thanks for your relatable reply.

  4. Welcome back Eric, A nice reminder to treat who and what we care about as precious or “keepers”. I’m due for some family time back east myself, along with those challenging conversations. I don’t usually un-tether, just reduce, but I might try it!

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