Yesterday, we had a wonderful opportunity to celebrate a milestone in our imperfect family. It wasn’t that Patty’s house was clean or Gina’s baseboards were dusted; it was much greater than all that. Yesterday, we celebrated our father’s 80th birthday. It was a simple party to celebrate a man who has led a simple, fulfilling, and honest life. A man, who unlike us, is so content with everything he has, and who values every dollar.
“How come you had your hair cut so short today, Dad?”
“I like it that way. That means I got my money’s worth.”
“But Dad, you look like a skinhead.”
Each year, we struggle with what to give him. And this year, we were particularly baffled as we wanted to get him something special to mark his 80 years. Our mother warned us. “You kids better not spend too much money on some fancy restaurant. Your father hates that.”
But anything less than that didn’t seem like enough for a man who’s given so much to us.
We did consider giving him some nice gift, such as a golf trip with our Mom, but we could hear our father’s endless warnings that we’ve listened to for every birthday. “I don’t need anything; I’m a man who has everything.” Our mother, of course, disagreed. “He needs new socks, khacki slacks, a shirt to go with his blue sweater vest, etc. You know your father. He’d wear the same old clothes for 50 years if it weren’t for me.”
In the end, we decided to have a small family party at Patty’s and give him restaurant gift cards — really gifts for our mother. “Ooh, good! Now I won’t have to cook.” And though he gave us his traditional hard time “(You kids shouldn’t have bought me anything. The way you kids blow money.”), he had a smile on his face and tears in his eyes, as he came to hug each one of us, and tell us how proud he was of us.
We’ve often said that one of the greatest gifts our special children have given us is an appreciation for family. They’ve helped us realize that every year we spend with our elderly parents is a gift.
Now, when we see our parents blow out their candles, we share a teary look. A look that says, “Thank you God for giving us another year with them.” It’s a reminder of how blessed we are, though our complaints about money and battles with the school for services sometimes make us forget that.
Our children feel the same way. They love seeing their grandparents and reminding them of how much they’ve grown.
“Nana, I’m taller than you,” says Gina’s 11-year-old, Emmy.
“I know, Emmy. When you get to be my age, you shrink.”
“That’s OK Nana, cause you’re so cute. Look at her Mom, isn’t she so cute?”
Given their ages, we know our parents time with us is limited. Our goal is to have our children spend as much time with them as they can. Which, if we live in China, would keep us out of trouble, as the article below explains. Don’t worry; I’m sure we’d find some other way to get into trouble.
bReference: In China, Visit Your Elders … Or Else!