Katy Perry’s “Birthday” song played over my work speakers as the text came through from two-thousand miles away; inquiring about my impending day of birth. As we go deeper into our fourth decade I ask the bff what this year means? She is almost six months older than I (LOL) and I seek her infinite wisdom.
“more. adj. 1: greater in amount, number, or size. : extra or additional.” Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Sept. 2014.
We both ponder our life balance. She and I have both buried parents and are only children. The expectations from the older generation, the in-laws, are vastly different from ours and most times we walk the fine line. We are sandwiched between the older generation and our children’s; buffering differing values. Our in-laws are the baby boomers; products of the turbulent 60s, the Beatles, Vietnam and and free love 70s. They still uphold Reaganomics, are Footloose and have no idea what all that noise (that’s what you kids call music?) in the 90s was about. Our Instagram, Facebook and social media tendencies are off-putting and we perpetuate these traits in our offspring. The instantaneous bonds between grandparents and kids, these days, are harder to traverse with an iPod or smartphone in hand.
The in-laws envision late night fishing expeditions on the pier. Attentive grandchildren who want to spend time pouring over family photo albums of their ancestors of the past. Camping trips panning for gold in frigid northern California waters. They happily share stories of their weekly lottery winnings and casino trips and various encounters with doctors. They long for willing garden helpers to pick fruit and vegetables. Amongst sci-fi or war movies they seek more time.
The text reply says it all. The street goes both ways. Ditto that.
Grandparents must also understand the hobbies and schedules of their grandchildren. They look to the stands for their grandparents during recitals, sporting events and graduations. They excitedly share their advancement in gaming levels and the antics of their friends. The urban dictionary slang and tech words fly from their lips; the dub step music shared on the headphones. They, too, seek affirmation and acceptance and are bewildered when they just don’t get it.
It is hard to balance the divide. The bff and I decide to make a pact. We must always make the effort to be available to our children when they grow to be adults; to ask for their help not expect it. Guilt, hints and innuendos are not clear communicating techniques. It is only when you set expectations high, with no clear communication, that people are misunderstood. They are hurt.
Recently a local Starbucks was in the news as a generous motorist in the drive thru line offered to pay for the drink of the car behind him. This set the pattern in motion and for over the course of several hours; cars in the drive thru were astounded to discover that the car before them had paid for their drink. It went viral.
Each motorist chose to pay it forward; to reciprocate the good deed until motorist #106 (?). When the Starbucks barista shared, over the loudspeaker, if he would like to make a donation; he politely declined. When he reached the order window, instead, he placed a hundred dollar bill in the tip jar; stating that when the suggestion to pay it forward became more like a demand; that the gesture of giving was lost. His point. People should willingly WANT to give; not be asked to do something because everyone else is doing it. I feel similarly about the ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) ice bucket challenge. It is a great cause and it needs the awareness. But when you are guilted into giving; can you really call it giving?
Grandparents day is today. Is it the “special day” that we truly make the effort to cherish and honor them? Or is this another instance of doing something because we’re supposed to? Grandparents and grandchildren, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and co-workers should ALL be cherished; as often as possible. It is unrealistic to say that every day will be a great day because, as in life, this is not the case. We need to soldier on, to work through guilt, hurt and misunderstanding; to bridge generational gaps. To teach all parties the art of speaking from their hearts.
It is not in the amount of time that we spend with others, the more, that counts. It is always in the quality.
Not all moments can be Hallmark ones.
On Friday I sat at my work desk; a day when our business is usually closed. My mind had conjured a lazy day to spend in couple time, with the hubs, while our children were all at school. This would entail a leisurely breakfast, and lunch in a nearby college enclave with ecclectic restaurants. Instead we toiled, pushing through an already taxing week to get a large order out. I had little time to be disappointed. He knew it would not be my ideal way to spend our special day; our anniversary. That very morning at 6:45 AM, our eldest handed over the note from the high school; noting a rally at 10:54 AM this same day. At 6:57 AM I found myself RSVP’ing to an email in hopes to reserve a seat.
Today I sat in the crowded church; mind wandering. I am reading in The Organized Mind about the ability for the brain to switch between attentive modes and mind wandering ones. With sudden clarity I was hearing the words, the sermon the deacon was sharing coming into focus, as he went over the Gospel readings of today. Sometimes we are called to something and we do not act. Instead of using our abilities to communicate, we repress or complain. One-on-one communication is always the clearest and he asked us all to pray that he could conquer this in his life. That when things did not go his way; he would have the courage to speak from his heart. To do away with misunderstanding; instead of silently swallowing the hurt or angrily criticizing to others. When the silence fell, signalling the end of his sermon; I heard a person clap. Soon the entire congregation applauded. We are human. Flawed.
We all need to be given grace.
The email response came at 7:07 AM; a seat reserved. And though our anniversary day did not go as planned; little things brought simple joys. The raucous roar in the gym as classes battled for most spirited, the Indian food for lunch unexpected. Neither of us require flowers, cards and trinkets; we have spent many years apart exchanging those things during long deployments. We have our health. We have work. In a hot, dark conference room eating lunch; we exchanged anniversary wishes. We have what matters most. Each other. Time together.
This afternoon I found myself on the phone (gasp! I’m rarely talking on a phone) relaying thoughts to my mother-in-law. To make things clear. To bridge the gap of misunderstanding as I wish them a happy grandparents day. I cannot make people understand my point of view; nor accept it. But I have the ability to grant grace. To forgive. To empathize.
This is what my cumulative years of birth have brought me. The wisdom to know the difference. As another special day approaches I am reminded what really matters. I must live my life each day as if it could be my last. To not let things in the past cloud my present and future. To clearly communicate to those in my life, who affirm and accept me, that I value them; before it is too late. I want more quality time with my friends and family; not distracted busyness that takes away. Please don’t guilt me or attach strings with high expectations. I want to give freely without demands or the promise of something in return. The only thing I have to offer you is my time.
I continue on my walk to be fully present. To focus my attention on what matters. I live to make each day special; every day.