Last summer, at a family reunion, my Father was asked to say grace before the evening meal. Even though it’s my Mom’s side of the family, he is always the one who is called upon to pray. He is a godly man and a good man. As our heads were bowed in prayer, one of the things he said to God was, “You’ve blessed us. Some more than others. Some more than we deserve.”
I was glad we all had our eyes closed, so no one could see me crying.
Because I live several states away from them, I only see them a couple of times a year. When I am in California and they are in Independence, in the house where they raised me, I can imagine them still being the couple in the pictures I have displayed in my home. I can see them as high school seniors, or a young 1970’s Kansas City family, or the way they looked when they visited me while I lived in New York and we went to Atlantic City for the day.
And then I go to them or they come to me, or sometimes we meet in the middle. Within minutes, my Mom will tell me whether my hair is too short or the appropriate length. And I will be shocked with the reminder of something I manage to forget when we are only talking or texting to each other from 1500 miles away: they are old now.
This weekend, I met my parents in Denver. After they picked me up at the airport, we went to lunch at a Panera Bread. And as we sat in a corner and ate our food, they told me about all the doctors’ visits they had made in the last few weeks. They both retired this summer and now, like so many others, their days are filled with negotiating doctor and dentist and optometrist appointments. As casually as they could, they shared the news of these visits and I sat there, with concern and sadness, as I gobbled up what might possibly have been the worst turkey club sandwich I’ve ever encountered.
For the rest of the weekend, as we drove around Denver and went to the Museum of Nature and Science and to dinner at my cousin Valerie’s house and services at historic Trinity United Methodist Church downtown, I tried to take as many pictures as possible, to document and memorialize our time together. I’m not the biggest fan of the way I look in pictures these days, but I tried not to judge my wattled neck or squinty eyes too much. Each moment together is something to be treasured.
I’ve tried to dissect why my Father’s prayer last summer has stuck with me in these last 14 months. Part of it, I know, is that he reminded me of all of the challenges we have been through as a family, and the challenges he’s been through and the challenges my Mom has been through, and somehow, we are still here. They are still here.
Maybe it’s the Kansas in us or the church in us, but I fear that we go through life worrying that we don’t deserve the blessings we have. Or that suddenly all those good things might go away. I know that I am lucky that I know my Mother and Father love me. I know that I am lucky that there are still things to laugh about, still things to see.
When I got home on Monday, and I presented Eric with the butter pecan cookies my Mom made for him, it struck me what a gift those cookies were from her. Even something like making a batch of cookies is not as easy as it used to be. And it doesn’t means she won’t make them anymore, it just greater reflects the deepness of her love. Also, probably a day will come when she won’t be able to make me cookies and a part of her will wonder, how does he know I still love him? But I’ll know. In the 48 years I’ve been on this planet, everything she’s ever done for me has revealed that love. I’ll always know my Mother loves me.
I’ll be honest, I have been sad in the days that I’ve been home. I miss my folks and like a spoiled child, I miss the version of my folks I see when I close my eyes. And with each step and each breath and each blink, their lives will only become more challenging. And back to that prayer, but I wrestle with this feeling that my parents deserve more. I know, deserve is probably the stupidest, most egotistical word in the English language. Nobody deserves anything. Except my parents, they do. They deserve every blessing imaginable.
The truth is, God has blessed them. While aching, weeping, and praying for more for them, I am grateful for every good thing, every good day, every good meal. And certainly, I must hold to another truth, as I grapple with what our futures hold. If you are lucky enough to know them, you already know this, but I’ll say it anyway. In giving me these two as parents, God has blessed me beyond measure. More than I deserve.