By Michael Eatmon
This week, the featured post is authored by Michael Eatmon. Michael’s a career educator. For over 30 years, he’s studied and taught language, philosophy, and theology. What feeds his embodied soul, though, are art, music, poetry, yoga, and the warmth of close friends. He and his wife of 30 years live in central Florida, where they’ve raised four children.
“If you have time this weekend,” my mom eased into her requests, “we’d love to see you. We’d also like you to help us find something. Oh, and did I mention that my computer’s acting up again?”
My parents moved to Florida about 20 years ago to be closer to my family. They could’ve moved nearer to my sister’s family, but that would’ve taken them to southern Europe. My family was not only closer, but it was also home to more of my parents’ grandkids.
I appreciated Mom’s call last Friday. I knew that her words, that she and my dad would love to see me, were sincere. We’ve always had a good relationship, and I enjoy spending time with them. I made the hour drive, intending to share a few meals, swap family updates, and stroll a few yards down memory lane.
I wasn’t in my parents’ house ten minutes before I learned that they wanted my help to find and buy a car. They hadn’t bought one in ten years, and they found the prospect nerve-racking and scary. They had pressing questions, and all were oh-so reasonable. Were they making a wise decision in spending their money like this? Would they be taken advantage of in the sales process? Would their health remain vital enough for long enough to enjoy the purchase? I couldn’t provide answers to such personal questions, but I could help them think through them.
By several hours later, I’d found what they wanted, arranged their finances, and planned for a test drive. Early Saturday morning, we set off for the dealership, a good hour and more away. We were at the dealership from 11 in the morning till 3 in the afternoon. Four hours in a showroom can be trying for anyone.
For a couple of 70-somethings with health challenges, it can prove a real strain. At times, my parents felt physically uncomfortable in the space. More than that, they felt vulnerable in the situation. Facts, figures, pitches, terms, and conditions came at them fast and furious. Sometimes, I caught glimpses of confusion on their faces. Other times, I saw concern.
A few times, my parents deferred to me to answer the salesman’s questions. “Mike,” they’d say to me (only they and my sister refer to me that way), “would you tell him what we talked about?” I was happy to.
As my parents age, opportunities for me to help out, to serve them, grow. I call, text, email, and visit more frequently. I fix them breakfast or drive them to dinner more often. I help Mom up and down curbs more than I used to, and I explain to dad how his phone works, however many times he wants to hear it.
When I left for home Saturday evening, I was exhausted, but grateful. I was thankful for being able to return to my parents a fraction of the investment they’d made in me over the years. Soon after returning home, I hit the sheets. Only half the weekend had passed, but it was already full.
So I thought.
Early Sunday morning, my older daughter called to invite herself over for the day. My wife and I were thrilled that she extended herself the invitation. We hadn’t seen her and my two granddaughters in more than a month, and our hug tank was low.
From the moment they arrived to the minute they left, I was engaged. My head, heart, and hands were moving, touching, giving, receiving. They needed to! Neither granddaughter took a nap while here, and both had the energy of a small sun. Both gave off a sun’s emotional warmth, too, which I basked in.
I picked up, held, and put down my infant granddaughter about a hundred times. Each time, she flashed a wide smile, showing off her two new front teeth. We played several rounds of peekaboo, each round a remarkably new experience for her. And for me. We also played a short, messy game of Let’s Try to Keep the Mushy Banana in Your Mouth. She seemed wildly amused by not playing by the rules, and I chuckled each time I cleaned up the floor.
My older granddaughter and I have had a sweet, special connection for a couple of years. Up until recently, she referred to me as “Dad.” (Her own dad is “Pappa.”) Our times together are rich, warm, connected, and full of laughter. On Sunday, we got in a trip to the park, a yoga session, and a few turns at hide-and-seek. She loves looking for me, and she becomes concerned when she can’t find me after a minute or two. Although I’m a most skillful hider, I delight in being found.
For much of the time the girls were here, our daughter caught up on some sleep. She works so hard to provide for her marriage and family. She’s a beautiful woman, inside and out, and my wife and I couldn’t be prouder.
Soon after the three left for home Sunday afternoon, I sneaked in my own nap. I was exhausted again, but I was again happy. My weekend had proven to be both draining and full … mostly the latter.
As I laid my head on the pillow that night, I mused about the circle of life. I marveled at its ever-surprising rhythms of dusks that follow days that follow dawns. From my pillow, I mused a bit, too, about how such an “ordinary” weekend could afford so encircling a view.
A smile erupting on my face, the answer to my unspoken question came to me. I could see life’s circle, and be so fully present in it, because I’d been standing in its center. From there, young life, old life, my life, renewed life—all are the same distance away.