When I was younger, I watched my parents with their siblings. Mom had two. Both on the East Coast. Dad had a bunch. One on the West Coast.
There was a sense of responsibility. Family. The word hung like a fog over our house. You did what was expected of you. When someone was in need, you would go. When your wife’s sister showed up on your doorstep pregnant and with a 4 year old, you just let her in. When someone was sick, you would bring the kids to see/meet them. They would shuffle in and see the sick, and the dying they barely knew. There was an expectation.
Were those expectations completely unhealthy and did the history, the rituals and bonds carry more weight than they do in our our Facebook/twitter world? Has the intimacy of life been replaced with the chaos of everyday life? Have we become a casual world? A hello, goodbye, everything’s fine kind of society? And does anyone care how things have changed?
I think I might be living in the wrong time. I want a deeper attachment. I want to see “worry” and “care” and “love” in action. I watch my neighbors who are dealing with life changing accidents and illnesses and I am baffled by how little real care that happens. We are too busy, too disinterested, not interested in that kind of intimacy. And I so want that to change.
We used to give rides to people who needed them. We used to deliver food when people were sick. Back in the day, you went to funerals. No matter what. You just did it. People were willing to step into the belly of the beast and feel. And do. Even if it was hard.
I remember the day that my dad lost his first sibling.
When he heard on the phone that his brother had died, he dropped the phone and sobbed. We had never seen our dad express his emotion like that. It was touching and frightening, all at the same time.
My dad was a big man. And intense. And he cried with all the love and all the grief to power his tears at the loss of his brother.
Love. Family. Bonds. Friendship. Do they mean the same thing now that we have 550 Facebook friends, we twitter all day long and we bounce in and around our lives at the speed of a vicious game of ping pong?
I don’t know. I don’t know at all. I just know that I have moments when I long for that kind of deep, deep realism. Truth. Beauty. Emotion.
Being chronically ill makes people reach into their core and look at everything that lives there. Like it or not, we look inside. Once you look inside, and really see, you can no longer stay asleep. You have to be in life. Be present to it, the good, the bad, the ugly. You have to speak your truth. Be your truth. And, at the same time, let go.
I’m getting really good at most of those things. Still a little squeaky in the letting go, but I get to practice it every day. And people DO in my life. My sister brings me toilet paper when she comes to help me clean my house. My friend, Dennis fixed the front door of our house, the door that has been broken for many, many months. He just walked in with his drill and fixed it. Dawn, my neighbor says yes, every time I ask her to drive my kid somewhere. Anne brings me food. And those things are so significant for us. We try to return the love in action by bringing meals to others, transporting people who can’t drive, and more. There is always something to do.
My dad carried a medallion in his pocket that he earned by participating in a treatment program with/for one of his kids. On that medallion was the serenity prayer. And, I’ve been saying it a lot these days. When days are hard. When people judge me. When I just don’t know if I can get through the day.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
He was strong. He looked inside his core. He tried his best to be Wise, to find Serenity and to show Courage.
And I am his daughter. I can remember all the ways he showed those qualities and strengths and find them within myself.