I find this week’s topic difficult: If we had to write a letter to our parents, what would we thank them for?
I had a relationship with my father that is better left undiscussed. It was not just with me, either, but let’s give him his due. There were a couple of very important lessons by example and listening that I got from both he and my mother. Unfortunately sometimes, I learned the hard way.
The first and most important lesson I learned from both of them was honesty. Neither of my parents would accept a penny over their due when being given change at a purchase, nor would they ever think of not going back and paying for something that they had inadvertently not been charged for.
Another virtue that was practiced by both was charity. Both of my parents would do good things for other people, especially those in need, and not accept payment. They also listened to people who were not needy but needed to talk, and would they never be cruel or less than charitable with those who were less than fortunate in any way, (physically, emotionally, etc.). We sometimes had extended family members or children of friends staying with us, who had a temporary need. It was unfortunate that the kindness shown to others was not often shown to all members of the family. But however bad my parents’ marriage was, they were both fond of, and kind to, each others’ families… (and, boy, did my father put up with a lot from my crazy aunts!) Plus, both of my parents were kind to animals.
The biggest gift was that they raised we kids to have absolutely no prejudice and to respect all people, judging only individuals and then only by their actions. This was particularly important since I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, where we had people from all over the nation and all over the world.
There was their work ethic that really made an impression on me. If either of them put their minds and hands to something, they always did a perfect job of it. Always. Whether it was a wiring job by my father or folding towels by my mother, it was a thing of beauty. (My mother had been an executive secretary before we kids were born. The company hired THREE women to take her place and they still offered her to name her own salary to try to lure her back; ’nuff said. Unfortunately, my father was not as good with money as he was an electrical engineer and turned down every one of many offers to be set up in business for himself. He would have been on the ground floor of television. And I’d be a rich media or electronics tycoon, but I digress.)
Certainly not the least of their better virtues was that both of my parents had very good senses of humor! Neither could tell a joke to save themselves, but they had quick wits, they laughed readily and were both good story-tellers. I listened all the time, which is probably why I am here with you today.
I was exposed to all types of music and was shown many movies and TV shows, and taught to make discernment on the quality, depending on the type or genre. I was read to, and there were always book around and trips to the bookmobile and once in a while, a magazine subscription, just for me.
Besides the fact that I can do great laundry, my mother taught me to cook, and a taskmistress she was about it, too! She worked me to the bone during the holidays but I became a cook and baker. I even had a bakery/restaurant and knew I could put my food in front of anyone with pride…I had no qualms about sending anything to the movie producer and his unnamed celebrity guests when the calls would come in.
And my mother made sure I knew to get all the pots and pans perfectly clean and shiny afterward, even if it took until 3:00 A.M Thanksgiving morning.
Through both of my parents I learned to be a good host; always share, always offer, always serve and never let anyone think that helping them or serving them is an inconvenience in any way.
I also learned from both of my parents that life is not fair, nor should I expect it to be. I learned that sometimes the screw-ups get the attention instead of the ones who are dutiful…in other words, I can empathize with the Prodigal Son’s brother. Sometimes there are just different sets of rules for different people, even within a family. I learned that you can’t make someone care for you, no matter what you do, which kept me from making a fool of myself over men, so I am grateful for that. I learned that I did not need many ‘things’ and how to be frugal, but to always have dignity. I learned early to deal with disappointment. I learned that everyone has human weaknesses; there are no perfect people or heroes. I learned that personal choices have consequences that last for generations, both good and bad. (You can use your imagination as to how I learned some of these.)
Although she often put up stumbling blocks and projected her own fears, my mother used to tell me that I could do anything I mind to; sometimes I believed her. I do believe it now.
For what I received, including my life, (which I know came at a bad time in their own lives), I am grateful.
[Co-incidentally, today is the 104th anniversary of my father’s birth. It is also his youngest sister’s birthday, who is still very feisty at 91! Happy Birthday, Aunt Marion!]