Monday, August 5, 2013

The Days In Between

I often wonder why it is that there are certain things about a person that aren’t often fully realized or recognized until after that person’s physical presence is gone.  Do we not see those things because we aren’t paying close enough attention?  Do we not take the time to consider the value of our interaction with and of the lessons learned from that person?  Do we see it on some level and just not think about it, articulate it, or appreciate it until we see that that’s all there is?  Is our view - or our awareness - shaped by loss, or experience, or both?

Thinking about all of that starts me thinking about the concept of rippling and about the intangible things that a person can leave behind, often without even realizing he is doing it.

I woke up with a raging headache and thought about my maternal grandfather; I remembered how he used to rub my forehead and the area around my eyes tirelessly when I was with him and had a headache.  Every time I put sheets on a bed, I think about my maternal grandmother: she always put the flat sheet on top in a face-down position so that the “good side” showed when she pulled the top of it over the edge of the bedspread and folded it over.  I think about my paternal grandfather whenever I see a man joyfully playing with young children; he was the king of the piggy back rides when my sisters and I were little.  And I think about my paternal grandmother when I notice that the bottle of Heinz ketchup is almost empty; I often follow her example of making something out of almost nothing and use her recipe to use that last little bit of ketchup to make BBQ sauce for chicken for my family.

And then there’s my dad, a man who taught me so much, most of which he did inadvertently.  Many of those lessons have become seasoned with the shift of my perspective over the years; all of them are more valued by me than I can adequately explain.  Some come from big events and big days in our lives, but most of them come from the in-between kind of days when we were just hanging out or just going about our everyday business.

I recently came across a video clip showing the different ways that people reacted to a man whom they thought was homeless:

The whole piece is framed around the idea that the people who reacted in a kind, compassionate manner were extraordinary – or even heroic.  Watching the clip, though, I thought about what my dad would say about the people and the situation shown: Why wouldn’t a person be friendly and try to help the homeless man? he’d say.  In his eyes and, because of him, in mine, the people who came to the aid of the man aren’t heroes and they aren’t extraordinary – the things they did to help the guy are normal and ordinary parts of human compassion.  Those in the film who aren’t kind are the ones outside the norm; they are the ones who are remarkable, just not in a good way.

There are so many other lessons embedded in me from interaction with those in my past, and I am appreciative of every one of them.  In return for all that has been given to me, I will continue to strive to pass on these lessons to others around me, on the difficult days, on the great days, and on the days in between.