It’s here. It is time to finish clearing out my Dad’s house. When they were first married they lived in town and Dad drove to the farm to work. Early spring just before I turned 4 we moved to the farm which my Dad purchased. They lived there until 1993 when they sold the house plus a few acres around the house and moved to town. I must admit I didn’t think I’d see the day when Dad would move back to town. Left on his own, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have moved but Mom wanted to do it. Listening to my Dad reminisce since her death I’ve learned that what Mom wanted, she pretty much got from Dad. He loved her that much. Having just celebrated his 90th birthday and processing through his (& mom’s) possessions is helping me to sort through some memories and thoughts. I am learning a few lessons. Here is lesson #1.
I saw a few of my parent’s “pinochle friends” at Dad’s birthday party. I had sent an invitation to one of the ladies of the group to be sure that they all knew of the party. As far back as I can remember Mom and Dad played pinochle on one Saturday night a month at 8:00 (farmers have to chore you know). I’m told the men were friends first and as they got married they brought their wives into the group. We had two card tables because they played three tables of two couples, so add our kitchen table and they were all set. A little competition, a lot of conversation, some snacks along the way, finishing with dessert far too late in the night to be eating dessert was a monthly happening in our lives. I loved it even though I was banned to my bedroom. It meant there was soda and chips in the house and I always got to indulge. That group got together for an annual picnic in the summer with all of the kids included. They celebrated each other’s children’s graduations, engagements, and weddings. They gave bridal showers and baby gifts. They always gave a card table set for the wedding gift, ours was blue. They met for coffee to discuss the latest news. They did a lot of life together. Through that group I got my first babysitting job. Mom and Dad would drop me off and pick up that couple to head out for their card game. Today they are a much smaller group. There are only two living men. Dad tells me that Jack is not happy when he doesn’t show up for their now once a month lunch at Pizza Ranch. They have mourned the death of many of their friends together. And that is my point, they have literally lived and died, together. At 90 years old my Dad still has friends that will show up for his birthday party.
As a nation we wonder why we can’t get along with each other these days. We have succumbed to being alone in a crowd. It’s common knowledge that depression, anxiety and suicide numbers have dramatically increased in the past two decades. I am beginning to see the correlation between all the time we spend alone with others via the internet as a huge determent to a healthy life and real relationship building. While there are many great things about being able to access our friends and family who live far away from us, forms we formerly had to travel to an office to get, and shop for things we can’t buy locally (really?), there are just as many disadvantages. We spend so much time looking through our phones for that “just right” photo to share on-line, that we miss the little joys happening right in front of us. It’s not just the kids doing this. My husband went to some races with three other men recently. All of these men were in their fifties or older. He said he was the only one who didn’t pull out his phone while the race was actually happening. He couldn’t believe they paid to get in to the races and then spent a lot of their time looking at their phones. Not to mention that left them unavailable to visit with one another.
The thing is on the internet we can always find someone to agree with us or at least sympathize with us. We rarely get real feed back, just a “like” or an emoji. We can’t get a hug. When we do hear from someone who disagrees, it is often said in ways we would never actually say face to face. We don’t get a chance to have a real dialogue. We just throw out words, like scatter shooting and let the pellets hit where they may. And hit they do. The result? Division, anger, and misunderstandings abound. My Dad was particular about his farm methods. He did not like weeds in his fields. He sprayed his fields and we walked them to cut out the weeds. Some of his friends did not like to spray their crops so their fields had many more weeds than Dads. They did not part ways because they had different ideas of the “right way” to farm. They talked about it. They observed the yields of each other’s crops. In short, they learned from each other. They learned that there is more than one way to farm and that it is okay to be different than your neighbor.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to make a difference today is to live interacting honestly with those in your world. For my parents it was their family, neighbors, mom’s customers in her beauty shop, church friends and the pinochle gang. For me it is my family, neighbors, my co-workers and patients, and those I go to church with on a regular basis. I will admit I have not gone out of my way to get to know my neighbors. There are a few that I’ve gotten to know a bit just visiting as we get the mail or because they know I will housesit their plants while they are out of town. We’ve decided to change that. My husband had a great idea a couple of months ago. Yes, a couple of months ago and we just took action yesterday. We invited our neighbors to come sit with us in our driveway around a fire. We provided the fixins for s’mores. They brought their own chairs. From putting invitations on six imediate neighbor’s doors to 12 hours later we had 4 households show up.The other two let us know they already had other plans. We had met all of them but not really visited beyond saying hi and talking of the weather. None of them had met each other. We talked about where we lived before we moved here. We found out why our neighbor who grew up in Hawaii likes Iowa. We found out one couple is pregnant with their first baby. And we agreed to do this on Sunday nights at least once a month until the snow flies. It was as simple as that.
No, when I woke up this morning the world was not all at peace, with people talking civilly to one another but you know what? I took a step in that direction. Will you take one step? I believe real change will only happen one step at a time.