When I walked into the house last night, there was chatter on the police scanner. The police dispatcher instructed an officer to respond to a local condominium complex and speak to a man who had called to help settle an issue with his 12-year old daughter.
What could possibly be the issue between the two that he had to call the police for assistance?
Wait. Don’t reply with your thoughts just yet.
I was born in 1953 and raised by two people who liked each other. The “like” is crucial to my story. Sometimes we love another because we are supposed to (like crusty uncles). Sometimes it’s more important to “like”.
My parents were each other’s best friends. They were thoughtful and considerate to one another. They didn’t fight. They disagreed but did so respectfully. They laughed with one another. If one went to the kitchen for a refill of beverage or snack, they asked the other. “Can I get you anything?” When my dad walked through the room he’d touch my mother on her shoulder. I saw these gestures and heard the language and thought every kid grew up in the same kind of home.
I grew up innocent. I was a sophomore in high school before I understood sex and conception. I drank once at a gathering and was so horrified I’d been peer-pressured into doing something I knew was wrong that I confessed the sin as soon as my parents were on their feet the next morning.
As much as I longed to be, I wasn’t one of the cool kids in high school. I wasn’t part of the clique, wasn’t invited to the cool parties. There is a photo in my yearbook of the popular girls draped across one another on the steps of the Wakefield Police Station. I hated them for being so pretty and popular, so tight with one another and such good friends. I wanted to be one of them and was devastated to feel that they probably didn’t know my name.
I don’t remember the Vietnam War protests. I didn’t hang with people who smoked pot. I was so naïve.
What I didn’t know was that I was blessed more than many. I was encouraged and treasured. I was challenged in healthy ways to grow and find my voice, and once found, to use it. I was allowed to fail and regain my feet based on my abilities. My accomplishments were celebrated. My personal goal was the never hear my father say that my actions (or lack thereof) disappointed him.
I met a great guy and wanted nothing more than to marry him. I could not wait to live the life my mother and father lived—because that’s the way everyone lived, right?
The last 40-plus years have been an interesting journey. Our marriage has hit some bumps (whose hasn’t?) but we worked through them. We never gave up on each other or on ourselves.
I co-raised a strong, confident child. She was more savvy than I’d been, smarter to the ways of the world at every age. She was kind and she made me proud. I’d have done anything for her.
She hated high school gym classes and I wrote her “get out of class” passes so often that when she was a senior, graduation was threatened because she hadn’t taken the minimum required classes (she caught up). She hated riding the bus so I drove her to school every morning (and she was late nearly every day).
When she was in college she fussed about having to write a paper for a class. I wrote it for her. She needed to take an online management class and asked me whether I’d consider… I took it in her name. I’d have taken the fatal blow for her.
She knew she could come to Dave or me with anything and we’d have helped her find a way to deal with it. She had great people in her life that she could go to if she felt she couldn’t come to us. We talked about that a number of times so I could be sure she knew she had a safety net. She named parents of a few of her friends, her uncle Ted, our church assistance minister Allen. It gave me great comfort to know that she knew she was building her foundation on her own confidence, her own voice and her network of mentors.
I blame my mother (because she is my only living parent) for my sheltered upbringing. I didn’t understand unhappy marriages, parents who couldn’t communicate with one another or nurture their children, people who disrespected one another on the basis of skin color or economic status or the kinds of houses they lived in or the jobs they performed. It has taken me years to wake from my Ward and June blissful state of mind and acknowledge that the world can be a harsh and hateful place.
(Disclaimer: My mother and I have talked about all of this. She knows that, with love and thanks, I blame her and my Dad for my rose-colored glasses view.)
What is the point of my ramble? I’m not sure but I offer a challenge. Do something to improve a corner of your world. Speak a kind word. Ask to forgive. Accept an apology. Offer your hand. Encourage someone. Smile at a stranger and say “Good morning”. Hold a door. Let the other driver go first. Small things become big things. Realize it’s not all about you.
If your reaction is to chastise me or rant a lecture, so be it. I may disagree but I support your right to do so. If you rant, I may just slide on those rosy glasses and opt not to finish reading what you have to say.
I’m good with myself. Can you say that?
I hope you find you have something to offer to someone who deserves your attention. Can you do that?
I will be thinking about that dad and his 12-year old daughter and his shout out to the local police. They need to find the energy to find their way, with each other or without. Hopefully with.