Several weeks ago, there was an excellent piece on this site reminding us of the importance of not forgetting our friends. Like many of you, I make a genuine effort to keep in touch with those who matter most in my life. When I graduated college last year and subsequently moved to a different state, I actually went so far as to make a spread sheet of close friends to call each week, hoping that such friendships wouldn’t fall off the grid. With the holiday season upon us, I am reminded even more so by the importance of another important group of people: Family.
I come from an interesting cast of characters. While my immediate family is your typical middle-class suburban folk, my extended family is pretty diverse. My dad’s side consists of mostly over-achievers including two pilots, a pro golfer, a Hollywood talent agent and my late grandfather — an all-American badass who served in WII, Korea, and, Vietnam. My mom’s side is massive (she is one of seven) and consists of everything ranging from a uber successful tech guru to a pro skater, including a range of opinions that always spark a lively Thanksgiving dinner conversation (this year we covered global warming, Bruce Jenner, and of course, marijuana). Few things in life get me more excited than our annual lake house weekend we do on my mom’s side every couple of years, it’s always a highlight for everybody, even the youngsters.
Even though I make an active effort to stay in touch with family each day, life gets busy. Too busy. Many of us are at a point in our lives where our careers, graduate school, significant others, and happy hour ignited social lives can leave our families on the back burner. Throughout college, I found myself being your typical degenerate who was distracted from keeping up with family, instead distracted by parties, tailgates, and well, all of the things that make college magical.
As many of us move into our twenties and approach the threshold of *gasp* thirty, I think it’s important that we cultivate the relationships we value most, whether it be with siblings, parents, cousins, or your favorite uncle that gets drunk off bourbon every year on Christmas. My dad and I have always had a particularly close relationship, although I made the mistake of blowing it off a bit in school. Like most cases though, the old man came in clutch when I needed him most. It was senior year and I had just gone through a brutal breakup with my college girlfriend. It was a rough stretch, I was a real downer to be around and frankly, not myself. Towards the end of that week, my dad drove three hours sensing his son’s masculinity was at risk, took me out for beer and chicken wings (our father-son staple) and lovingly told me to “quit being a little bitch” before promptly driving back later that evening. It was a simple, but important gesture that I really needed at the time.
Since I graduated college and began working, I have (attempted) to do adult things. Opening a 401(k), weekly trips to the drycleaners, and eating something other than a cup of noodles (but damn, I love those things) now cast a haze of responsibility over my once reckless youth. One of the most important things I’ve learned post graduation though, is to call your damn parents. With my siblings and I now located in DC and Dallas and my folks still in Florida, I know that despite all of their time spent at the local tiki bar, empty nesting has hit my parents hard.
Earlier this year, my family was caught off guard when following a shortness of breath and subsequent visit to the hospital, my dad was diagnosed with the early stages of heart failure. While this scared the shit out of me and the rest of my family, we also learned that despite the serious nature of his health, doctors reassured us that the problem was caught early enough that it’s effects were still reversible.
Since then, my dad has been forced to give up much of the good things in life (liquor, fried foods, etc.) in effort to heal his heart. Outside of complaining that “Michelle Obama raided his kitchen,” my dad is doing reasonably well now, dropping much of his beer weight and looking his best in years. While my family is incredibly lucky that my dad’s potentially fatal health issues were caught early, I can’t help but wonder how much I would hate myself if something more serious had happened and I had gone several days or perhaps even weeks without checking in with the old man. I now make a point of calling my dad every day. We shoot the shit about Broncos football, family drama, and his new John Deere ride mower that has likely replaced his wife and kids as the most important part of his life.
Do yourself a favor, pick up the phone and call a parent, sibling, grandparent, you name it. Life moves quick, remember what matters most. .
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