I just returned home from a trip back east where I spent about ten days with my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. We had a wonderful time and spent some of those days in a log cabin in the woods. I experienced a couple of “Ah ha” moments! First: I am too old to sleep on a futon bed. So daughter, go on notice, next visit: real bed.
Second: I have become my father. As my father grew older, his patience grew shorter and shorter. You could count on it, any given holiday dinner — at some point, usually post dessert, Dad would yell at the kids in a scary voice (which had been marinating in holiday wines for several hours) “Don’t you have any manners? Where’d you grow up? In a barn?” This would silence the room, grandkids and grown kids alike, and there would be this awkward how-in-the-heck-are-we-going-to-salvage-this-holiday moment. You could almost see the shine on the Christmas tree ornaments dull in the fog of shame that filled the room.
Sure enough, on at least two occasions, I lost my patience in the way I knew best: just like Dad used to. My patience looks a lot like a green slimy monster. Usually, I can keep it neatly tucked away in the recesses of my gut, but every once in awhile it sneaks up my throat and out of my mouth and splatters the room with green slime that takes on the form of mini-speeches: “Gheez, when I was a kid we didn’t talk to our parents that way!” Or, “How many people are in this car, young lady? I count five. Not one. Five! It’s not all about you!”
And that brings me to the gift. It’s a five and a half hour flight home. Lots of time to think about stuff and beat yourself up for being a not-so-perfect grandma. Time to think about all the moments that I could have turned into Leave It To Beaver moments, but lost those opportunities. Again.
This morning, my daughter wrote me an email: “The best part of our visit is being with each other and it feeling like we were just together yesterday. Like I can be myself with you, my mom, and you love me no matter what. Being yourself with someone in silence, in talking, in whatever, is a gift. A true gift.”
Thank you, God. I’ll try to do better next time!