Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's All About The Ties That Bind

My Dad (Sadie's Papa) had a funny ritual he performed whenever he traveled and stayed in hotels. We didn't take a lot of hotel-based vacations when I was little, so I didn't witness his ritual until I traveled with him to visit colleges when I was a rising senior in high school. It was either on those trips, or similar trips to visit law schools, that I saw this in action and he explained his practice to me, and told me he did this and every trip. Shortly after he would check into a hotel room and hang his clothes up and wash his face and hands, he would find a copy of the yellow pages (always in the bedside stand or closet top shelf) and he would turn to the listing of optometrists in private practice, and he would look to see if he recognized any of the names of the practitioners from his years at Pennsylvania College of Optometry and his attendance at annual continuing education seminars. Interestingly, more than once he would find the name of someone he knew or recognized.

Peculiarly, now that I think about it, is the fact that I don't ever recall him calling the person to touch base or set up a drink or dinner date. This is probably a combination of the myopic mindset I had as a young adult (surely the trip was all about me) or the fact that my father was so committed to his children that truly, the trip WAS all about me, and there was no time to spare when we needed to tour the campus, eat each meal in the cafeteria, sit in several classes, etc. But I do remember my father smiling when he would see a fellow optometrist whose name he knew and close the phone book with a pleasant memory having crossed his mind.

I think my father had a sense of Facebook before its time.  Just thinking about a friend was rewarding.

He has always valued the many relationships he made in life. He was never one to "call in a favor" so to speak, or measure anyone's worth based on who they knew as a way to move up the ladder. But he remembers (and remains thankful for) the friendships that he has had in his life and recalls the most wonderful memories about his friends. He reads the obituary section of his local paper, plus the Washington Post for our Mt. Vernon community deaths, plus the Pittsburgh paper to check on passings of his childhood friends and families. While those passings seem more and more common now and I know this makes my father sad, when he calls us to share the sad news he will often tell a handful of stories about the person and the events from long ago or the last time he saw the person. I can feel the smiles through the phone lines, and I have to think that this makes those that have passed feel some sort of tickle on their way to heaven.

Sometimes I get in a mood (shocker, I know) and I yearn for the "good ole days" when I spent hours and hours with good friends. Those times were not necessarily the most productive times  as I can remember spending entire Saturdays watching Real World marathons on TV during my first few years in Richmond, and there was never a Sunday night that we didn't gather to watch Sex And The City together.  Late nights in bars and dinners out.  But those times didn't have the worries and stresses that we have now... so they seem so carefree in hindsight.

But just since the new year, I have had so many tangible reminders that the friendships in my life today are deep, trustworthy, and meaningful.  A visit from my friend Kathi last weekend and the simple act of walking our girls to the park and standing in the sunshine for a few hours.  A call from my friend Newnie the other night.  Stolen moments right when I come home with Sadie's nanny Tyler who, though half my age, never fails to make me feel young and hip and cool, takes wacko videos of my avid performer, and makes me choke with gratitude when I hear Sadie call to her in laughter as she leaves "Thanks for the GREAT day Tyler!" Our wonderful dog walker who leaves notes detailing Daisy's bravery upon encountering a rat on their walk, written like the very best adventure story so that Sadie becomes even more effusive with rewards and praise of our ten year old (blissfully unaware) companion. My friend Bethany who invites me for Belle Island runs during lunch that never fail to re-motivate me for health and fitness.  Gone are the days when I would run the 8 minute mile and now Bethany (with two Ironmans under her belt) has to slow down for me... but it those runs are priceless.

And... 30 Facebook friends who immediately liked my status detailing that Mark and I had taken the step to have Sadie's birthmark removed, ending a long phase of doubting and indecision. These Facebook friends, some of whom I see in real life, some of whom I haven't seen since I was 18 years old, and some of whom I have actually never met in person... were able to, with just one simple click, make me feel like I was walking into a room of friends with outstretched arms.   I have a relatively close friend who firmly believes that she has no time for Facebook. I respect her viewpoint, though I disagree.  There is nothing like a birthday on Facebook for you to feel loved. Now I can say, there is nothing like having your five year old's cheek restructured either. I will depend on the strength of friends getting me through that experience.

In some ways, my 43rd year (is that what this is?) is one where I have gotten more short tempered.  I am quick to criticize those who have inflicted pain onto our family of three.  I am more judgemental of those at work who take too long on tasks and who I feel waste my time. I don't bite my tongue as I probably did before. Now life is too short for wasted time.

But also this year, I feel more blessed by friendships than I ever have before. Near and far, close and sporadic. I love you all.