When Memory Serves You Well
Illustration: Ripening Blueberries (Image Credit: Dr. Barry Lynn © 2020)
Looking ahead at the weather maps for the next two weeks suggests that the weatherman should take a long awaited rest. True, there will be some ups and downs in the temperatures, but these should be more like the gentle undulation of the summer sea than a winter tempest.
When I wrote a piece about last week's weather — of course I wrote it the week before last week's weather — I pointed out that we'd already had one unusual May wintry rain and that our unusually intense and long lasting heatwave would likely be followed by another winter-like storm. At one point the global forecasts suggested that this would be a spring storm more reminiscent of our most severe winter storms! In the end, though nighttime and morning rains fell fast and furious in many locations, it was over before the afternoon and some places only saw sprinkles.
I had hoped my forecast of this last storm would "bring the house down" before moving into our summer months, and that I would finally get the recognition I've felt I deserved all along. Alas, I did not.
Until I did! It happened just the other day that my wife came downstairs and said: "This weather is really amazing." I told her that I agreed with her and then I waited. And then it came: "Thank you."
I may make a mess in the kitchen, but where it counts there is appreciation — even during this relative seclusion; a time when I find I miss people that I never thought I would ever miss. I find myself actually happy to see my neighbor or catch a word with someone who used to just pass me by on the street.
This is a far different kind of missing than the missing that unfortunately happens to all of us if we spend enough time here on earth. We come to the point where we are either missing someone or eventually being missed ourselves. Such times are for sad words, occasionally with perhaps a moment of happier recollection. But, it's also the time when you wish you could have said something or wish you could now say something that the other person would have appreciated hearing — if only they could (and perhaps they can) hear just then.
What if you could actually be sure that the person or persons get the message? Wouldn't it have been better to pass the message on while you knew you could?
I've been pondering this question for a while and decided that I would try to write a letter to my parents saying, simply, "Thank you." I really want them to know how much I appreciate them and how important they have been to me, my family, and how much I have enjoyed their spending time with us and their grandchildren.
We have a feeling of endless time when we're young. We get up, we go to school, the coming of summer brings an extra bit of joy, and we simply assume that our parents will make it all happen. They comfort when needed... like the time I ignored their admonition not to ride my tricycle without shoes. They put food on the table — we even had a dinner bell so we wouldn't be late for supper. Nothing was tastier than Dad's Turkey-In-A-Bag or Mom's pies. I can't even count the number of salads my mother made — that is dedication. They had endless patience to help with homework and were always there to drop us off or pick us up.
Yet childhood was not easy for them or for us. We all had challenges that needed attention. We had neighbors whose teasing I definitely do not miss. At one point, my mother went back to work while my father studied for his Ph.D. Those were hard years where Dad was home, but he wasn't home.
Ironically, I've done the same thing. I worked many days at home and even right out in the open of our living room. Yet, I was too busy at times to relate like a father should.
How do I know how a father or parent should relate? Simply because of them. Mom and Dad didn't just take care of us, they also taught us their values. It was these fundamental values that enabled me to find my "soulmate," who was raised in a family quite different from my own, but with the same values of honesty, kindness, and belief in responsibility. They taught us to make up our own minds and respected our interests. The wind vane my father placed on the apex of the house is still there. I received payment for growing strawberries in my garden, and now my garden is full of blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and cherries. I still have the bicycle I received from them before my first real cross-country trip.
It seems like I lived at home forever. Yet, most of my life has been spent beyond the years when I lived there. In between leaving home and having a family of my own, there was a transition. One might think — or at least children think this — that we leave and parents stop being parents; but it isn't so.
I still remember my father giving me advice about what I should do after finishing my PhD. I wanted to go to Israel to learn Torah and he said I should work first, so I could be sure to have a job when I returned. I was so angry (at him) because I wanted not only learning, but a religious family too, and I wanted it then, not later. Still, I accepted his advice. Four years later, I went to learn and was able to parlay my interim work experience into a job that I still have 20 years later.
Dad and I used to bicycle together and I resented being told I was riding my bicycle too far off the shoulder. He agreed to tone it down, but now, I am certain to give my children the same type of advice. In fact, I don't hesitate to give advice when I think safety matters are at hand.
Our relationship has evolved from them being parents with children to now being grandparents with grandchildren. This is something we never had because their parents, our grandparents, passed away too soon. It was, and is, as grandparents that my parents' kindness has made all the difference in our lives. There is nothing nicer than a new winter hat from Grandma or a fun game to play when it rains. Both packed and carried duffel bags almost as large as elephants when they came from the States on their periodic visits. One day, Mom decided our apartment was too small and within a few months we were looking to move. “The kids need a tutor?” they asked. “Please let us help.”
There is a joke about moving to Israel: how do you make a small fortune? Move to Israel with a large fortune. To be honest, just have one of your kids live in Israel. It's not the way it should be, but they adapted their beliefs to fit the situation.
Of course, having the means to help and actually helping are not the same thing. There are many parents who want to help, but can't. There are those who could help, but won't. And there are the ones who want to help and do. With my parents, it was not just me — they've always been there for my siblings, no matter how small or how large the problem.
I suppose I could have written a different type of article, telling a few stories about our lives together. Stories, though, are fleeting. They overshadow the actual day-to-day interactions that life is really made of. The stories overshadow life itself, but they are not what life is. For my parents, family is more than a word, it's a way of life.
Dr. Lynn is a lecturer at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Earth Sciences Department. He is also CEO of Weather It Is, LTD, a company that specializes in reducing weather risk. Click here to read more of this writer’s work in The Jerusalem Herald.