I’ve often thought I didn’t have the same kind of relationship with my family that others have with theirs. Or at least compared to others who had good relationships with their families. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great relationship with my family — I love them fiercely and will utterly destroy anyone who hurts my little sister, but I never was one to depend on them if I didn’t have to. For example, I never understood why the other girls in my college dorm needed to call their moms every week. I’d go a month without calling home. When I deployed to Iraq, sometimes I’d go months — plural — without calling (thank goodness for Facebook).
When I deployed my second time, I came to understand that sometimes I needed to call home because they needed it. So my calls became more frequent, and I talked to them more, not for me, but for them.
That all changed last week.
My grandmother and I connived a plan to surprise my family by flying to San Antonio (where my grandparents live) and having my family, without knowing I was there, join us. I hadn’t seen them in more than a year. When my family arrived at my grandparents’ house on Friday, they didn’t know I was hiding in a back room. As they marveled at the new kitchen my grandmother designed, I casually walked out and joined the conversation. It took my mother a double take to realize she was, in fact, looking at her oldest daughter, and my father stood still with his mouth forming a perfect “O.”
My grandmother and I were pretty proud of ourselves.
Before my trip I was taught a good lesson in time management and priorities. While losing myself in Facebook one evening, I happened upon a blog a friend of mine wrote about her grandfather who had passed away. In it she asked, “Did I enjoy papa while he was ‘young’?” She shared her memories of him and about making it a priority to not rush through moments with him and to enjoy even the would-be annoyances that later become fond memories to her and others.
I cried. And then sent the blog to my friends so they could cry too.
I’m guilty of being a member of a generation that lives in a world of fast food, instant messaging and a phone always within hearing distance. I’m guilty of putting off family time to hang out with friends, of checking my Facebook for updates, checking my phone for texts and checking out of slow conversations about any topic that doesn’t directly interest or involve myself.
How much of that “important” time texting my friends would I trade for a surprise weekend with my family after they’ve passed on? How much of me updating my Facebook status would I trade to hear the same story another time when I can no longer hear it from them?
When I arrived in San Antonio, I put it in my mind that I would spend more time listening to my family talk and share with them as many points in my life as I could. I sat on the back porch and listened to stories from my dad, I lingered in the kitchen for information on seasonings from my grandfather, and I looked through photos with my mom and grandmothers. It was time well spent.
Sunday was Grandparents Day and I made it a point to call them. Not just because they needed to hear from me, but because I knew one day I would wish I could hear from them.
MONICA K. SMITH writes an occasional column with an online blog where she discusses some serious and some not-so-serious business. You can follow her online at www.Facebook.com/KentuckyNewEra and reach her at 270-887-3243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.