Giving Thanks: December 2021
It’s not often that you’re given a second chance, but I’m smart enough to know – when it happens, carpe diem! It is because of this opportunity redux that I now find myself giving thanks for gifts I didn’t realize were right in front of me.
My understanding of the importance of this came during the recent wedding of my niece. The family lives in Fresno, so coming from Southern California, I guess you could define it as a “destination wedding” – well, for me at least.
My spouse and I drove my mother up north the day before the grand event. I love my mother, but like most moms, the thought of spending 3 to 4 hours driving through dust fields and produce orchards with her was a bit daunting.
While I was in the work force (I am now “retired”), on trips such as these, my mind was always preoccupied with thoughts of what I needed to be doing at work, rather than focusing on what I was presently doing, such as driving Miss Daisy, I mean my mother. This caused me to at times become annoyed with the banter – didn’t people realize I had important stuff going on?
Strangely, this time it was different.
We arrived at our hotel, checked in and soon were meeting my siblings and their families for dinner at a local Italian restaurant. In the past, my mind would have been muddled with thoughts about which deadline I had to meet or which project needed completion, rushing through dinner so I could get back to the hotel room and check my work emails.
What I learned after ending my career a few years back, was how much of an intrusion all that corporate ladder-climbing caused on my familial and personal life. As that part of life has ended, I now find my mind free to enjoy the presence of other people.
As we sat through dinner, the conversation flowed freely; my great-niece and nephew who are toddlers kept the table entertained with their antics. I asked myself, “Why didn’t I see this when my own nieces and nephews were that age?” I was also amazed how much laughter was taking place. I didn’t seem to recall that in my past life.
It is probably because I was so obsessed with the next job, the next promotion, the next, well you get the point.
The following day was the wedding. As we sat during the beautiful ceremony I looked over at my nephew who was playing with his niece, my grand-niece. She was thoroughly enjoying the situation and as I looked up at the altar to see my niece who was being wed, it reminded me that I too once played with her like that.
I realized the profundity of the passing of years. I recall my constant ladder-climbing while my nieces and nephews grew. I missed many family events as I was always working or traveling for work. They didn’t seem to mind my absence and refer to me as their “funcle.” Inside I knew, it was all smoke and mirrors, I was playing with them while planning my next career move.
During the wedding dinner, I felt somehow different. I noticed how young everyone seemed. Suddenly, I was sitting at the “old people’s” table and I was unexpectedly fine with it. There was music, toasts and dancing, and through the joy of it all, something happened – I became quiet in myself.
I looked at all my family scattered throughout the room, and realized these people have always been a part of my life, whether I wanted it or not. And, they were always there if and whenever I needed them – whether I realized or acknowledged it or not.
I understood it was now my time to be part of it; to accept it for what it is.
At one point in the evening, one of my sister-in-laws pulled me out of my seat, “Let’s dance Manuel.” Before we knew it, my spouse and other family members joined us, and as we moved with the beats of the music, I felt washed over in the knowledge that these people were and are all a part of me. It is an indescribable feeling.
I know, some people may be saying “Well, you don’t know my family” and that is true, and this isn’t meant as a slight to those who can’t have relationships with their families. In my case, for too many years I kept mine at a comfortable distance as I was always the “different one,” understanding that they couldn’t possible appreciate who I truly was.
Now, I see, it doesn’t matter.
They have their flaws and I have mine, but now I see when we’re together, none of that is important. What matters is we have these wonderful and sometimes complicated memories which are part of our bond. We have blood ties and we share a long and complex history. We are also creating new memories for be called upon in future times.
Since our return, I haven’t been able to shake the feelings I experienced in Fresno. I wonder “How did I not see all of this for so many years?”
I realize it was a trade-off. By sacrificing time spent with loved ones I was able to secure an early retirement.
When I stopped working, I vowed to myself to make up for the lost time. I have since made concerted efforts to take my mother to doctors’ appointments and to do other “family” things. My trip to Fresno proved it can be done – and be enjoyable at that.
I give thanks for having all these crazy, lovely people in my life, and I look forward… I look forward to my other nieces’ and nephews’ nuptials and to seeing my great-nieces and nephews growing and continuing our family line.
And, when the time comes for me to pack it in, I know I will smile as after all the years of neglect, I made it all back – I will give thanks for being given a second chance to appreciate the things that surround us each and every day.
And with that, I end this as “Poolside From PS.”