Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The regret of not being there

I reached across the bed and turned off the light. It was my mother's lamp. Big, round, brass. Its former life was spent in the living room of my childhood home. Now it was illuminating "my" room in my best friend's (since kindergarten) home. 

Tomorrow would have been my mother's 88th birthday had she not died two years ago. For several years, I traveled across the state in early January to spend a few days with her for her birthday. This year, even though she's no longer there, I hopped on a train and went "home" again. 

Last night, as I reached for the light, I thought about my mom. About the seemingly endless nights when she would sit in her living room alone watching television or reading by the glow of this lamp. I thought of her loneliness. And I ached inside for the want of going back in time and doing things a bit differently. I would have spent more time in Manheim with her. I would have filled more of those lonely hours with my presence.

But there is no going back and lessons learned are often lessons forgotten. I can only hope I do not neglect others who need me as time goes by. I hope that my presence will ease someone else's loneliness and I never again face the regret I've felt since Mom died. 

And I hope you, my friend, will learn from my mistake. Mom and I did not always get along. We did not always see eye-to-eye. Sometimes she drove me crazy. Sometimes I grew tired of hearing the same old stories. Sometimes I simply did not want to play another hand of cards or be beaten in another round of Boggle. But I loved her and I miss her with my entire being. 

Don't do it, folks. Don't neglect the ones you love. Don't subject them to endless hours of solitude, if it's within your control to make a difference. Here are just a few suggestions:
  • Do you love to read? Why not share a book with someone? Go to them, or call them, and read to them. You'll still get your reading time in. It's just that now you'll be enriching someone else's life while you do it.
  • Do you have an hour free for lunch? Is an aging parent or grandparent close by? Why not take lunch to them and lessen their loneliness for 45 minutes or so each week? Would it really be that much of a sacrifice?
  • Do you have paperwork to do or papers to grade? Do you do it while sitting in front of the TV? Why not do just that in the nursing home or your parents' living room? Sometimes, all they need is another warm body filling a place in the chair for awhile. 
  • Do you take meals to someone from time to time? Wonderful! Maybe you could offer to actually cook a meal or two in their kitchen. There's something delightful about the aromas of chicken roasting in the oven or stew simmering on the stove. And while it's cooking, ask them to tell you about their romances, or dreams, or career.
I'm sure you can come up with plenty of ideas of your own to bless someone's life and deliver them from a life of consistent loneliness. It takes so little... really. And the rewards are great. They include not suffering the kind of regret I have for not spending more time in my childhood home where my mom experienced the painful reality of growing old in an empty house.

Keeping it real,


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