It's What We Do
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Summer vacation is in full effect! We have traveled to Atlanta to see the grandparents. We have already been to the swimming pool three times, eaten ice cream every night, and indulged in movies, screens, reading late into the night and sleeping in past what most would consider an acceptable breakfast time. Today was another very hot one so we decided to plan a day of ice skating, a library visit for fresh books, and maybe a movie. All indoor activities to keep us cool and happy. We piled into the family van, grandparents and uncle in tow, and off we went!
It took about 25 minutes for us to get laced up and ready, none of us being skaters by any definition. And then it took about 15 minutes for Grandpa to take a brisk fall. Thankfully, he caught himself - with the back of his head. It was quite a hit. Knocked his glasses off. Brought much of the skating rink to his side. Leaving a trail of blood, he left the rink in good spirits. I think his ego was bruised more - he was coasting around the rink showing off his skating moves he remembered as a youth in Brooklyn. A welt the size of a golf ball quickly started to rise on his head and we all agreed that urgent care was in our near future. I flagged the kids down, explaining our need to go. We quickly packed up and went on our way.
And no one complained.
No one sighed or expressed any bit of distaste for the extremely brief visit to the much-anticipated ice rink or the prospect of not being able to complete any of our other scheduled activities for the day. My children did not whine about it being unfair. I was fully prepared to explain to them how important it was to take care of grandpa, but I didn't need to pull that out of my bag. We just drove to urgent care. Waited. Drove to the ER. Waited there. Found food. Played in the car. Played with each other. And finally grandpa emerged, tired but fine, given the "all clear" by the doctors to proceed with his life, maybe with a headache for the remainder of the day. It took 6 hours to make sure all was ok. And the kids trooped through it maybe better than the impatient adults around them.
My son was able to sum it up the best when I said "well - this isn't exactly the Sunday we were hoping for, was it?" His reply?
"It's what we do."
That's right, Ben. It is just what we do. We live with our family and friends, knowing each and every day that the unexpected may happen. When it does, we step in to take care of them and each other the very best we can, without any expectation of thank yous or rewards. It is just what we do. We have all been on the receiving end of kindness. When it comes from strangers, it is unexpected, and we thank them profusely for their outreach and care for us. When it is family, we just proceed. Grandpa didn't spend time thanking us for our efforts. That would be ridiculous! What effort? We love Grandpa. He doesn't need to thank us for taking care of him, because that is "what we do". And somehow my 10-year-old remembered that important fact about our family. I do believe this to be the case with most families or friendship circles. But what if it isn't? What attitudes, feelings, biases, hardships, or history make it difficult for all members to feel this connection that allows us to take care of each other, no matter what? What needs to change so that everyone included in such a unit benefits from the whole working together?
I am not suggesting that we change out our families. Frankly, we can't. I, too, have family members that wear on my very soul for whatever reason. There is a long history that drags our relationship and makes it a challenge to just - be. I hear you. And you know how I handle it? I care for them as I would any other member, knowing full well it may not be reciprocated by them in return but I'll be caught be another member if I so need it. And I proceed to find supplements, in the form of dear friends and other relationships that make the absence of one largely unnoticed. I spend not a moment looking back at past family troubles, using my energy instead to focus on future good relationships that I have actively built and maintained, by doing "what we do". I do believe that to be the easy part.
I thank you, Ben, for reminding us all of our responsibilities as a family member and friend. I thank you for understanding the greater good that comes from being there for each other. I thank you for recognizing that in your time of need - and it will come - we will all be there for you as well. I thank you for trading your skates for an ER bracelet and your hugs around the enormous popcorn tub for hugs around your beloved grandpa. I thank you. I know for certain that grandpa thanks you, too. But let the guy rest for now, because he's had a very long summer day.