Reverb 10: The power of friendship & family
“Friendship is a sheltering tree.” ~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I’m participating in a month-long blogging challenge called Reverb10 during which I am posting a response to a writing prompt from 31 different authors. The goal of the exercise is to reflect on 2010 and set goals for 2011. Today’s prompt – Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
Just the other day I was lying in bed thinking about my wonderful friends and how lucky I am to have them. Most of them are the sort of friends who I could call in the middle of the night if I needed help and they would be there for me. I highly doubt I would ever do that, but it is nice to think that you have people who would come to you in a flash.Some of these friends have suffered illness and setbacks this year and others have achieved great things. Although their boldness has been inspiring to me, there are two other people who have really changed my perspective this year – my mom and my dad, who by the way, I consider two of my best friends.
Now, I am not a young 20- or 30-something who is just embarking on a new career or life and looking for parental approval. I am at the double-nickel mark, with a family, home, business, pets and problems of my own. But still, my parents continue to move me and shape me even as we all grow older.
Dad is a journalist and lifelong writer and, as such, I share a very special bond with him. During his career, he interviewed kings and presidents, movie stars and the mob, politicians and regular folks who flip burgers for a living. From him, I inherited a passion for writing and a respect for the power words have to influence, change and move people. Dad has taught me about writing truthfully, which I have never forgotten during my 30-year career in public relations and freelance writing and reporting. He is one of the most brilliant thinkers and writers that I know.
But, he also is getting older, and in honor of that, life handed him some challenging health issues to deal with this year. 2010 was marked by hospital visits, invasive surgical procedures and treatments, and new prescriptions to take each day. Sleepless nights, weary days, and pain have been his companions, along with back-of-the-mind questions about future health.
Yet, he lives not like an old man, but as a man with a lot of living to do. At 81, he still gets up in the morning and takes his two oafish Labrador retrievers for long walks along the river through the snow. He then comes home and writes, and reads, and writes some more. He writes columns every day for the local newspaper; he writes for magazines; he writes letters to the editor. He keeps his mind busy and learning. Then, in the afternoon, he takes his dogs out again for a long romp in the woods.
We talk about lead paragraphs, the changing state of journalism, crazy politicians and how we are both going to write the Great American Novel. “Perhaps we can collaborate on that,” we say. We discuss our dogs and family and how my company is doing. He tells me how proud he is of me, and I realize that he couldn’t be more proud of me than I am of him. This past year I’ve marveled at the shit that life has tossed at him and his bold acceptance and fortitude in meeting it head-on. He has given me a new perspective on loving my work, staying true to myself, dealing with unexpected bumps in the road, and meeting life every single day with a kick ass attitude.
Mom is one of those women who, if I met her accidentally on the street, I would immediately want to be her friend. She is a beautiful woman, inside and out. A former model and beauty queen (would have gone into the Miss Universe Pageant if she hadn’t married my dad), mom was never satisfied to rest on her looks. From the youngest age I can remember, she was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader, homeroom mother, PTA president, a fundraiser for various charities, and a tireless volunteer for political candidates who she wanted to see elected. From her I learned how to cook, sew and ride a bike, both with and without training wheels. She also blessed me by insisting I go to a Christian school in my early years, where I learned the foundation of my spiritual beliefs. It would take pages to write about all she has taught me, all the times she has hugged, kissed, and comforted me, the times she has spanked my bottom, pointed me in the right direction, listened to my whining, helped me live through my angst, taught me about pride and self-acceptance, dried my tears, and looked the other way.
But, this past year mom has given me a new perspective on patience, commitment, and strength. You see, just as my father has been going through his issues, mom has been right there going through it too. Cooking, cleaning, caring for the dogs when my father couldn’t, bringing in wood to stoke the fireplace, trips to the hospital, conversations with doctors, perhaps quiet tears behind closed doors. We also laugh and eat and drink wine together and talk about politics, go shopping, and share memories of family members and events that have long since passed. If I had to create a label, I would say mom is the source of strength and consistency for our family.
Their marriage has not always been perfect and there were times when it might have ended. However, they stayed together, committed by their vows, their love for family, and stuck it out. If they hadn’t, what would each of them be doing today without the other one there?
2010 has been a year of aging and change for us all, but even as the years pass I still feel blessed to have parents who inspire, teach and serve as a loving example to me in my future life.