I’m in Florida, doing the best thing I can do, under the worst of circumstances. I do not like why I’m here, and I wish I were spending time with my family for happier reasons. But given the present situation, I’m eternally grateful that I have a life that affords me the ability to book a cross-country flight on a few days’ notice, and be present when it really matters to the people I love dearly. So here I am, contemplating my luck.
1. You are not getting any younger, and neither are your parents.
Life is busy, and work (and children, even if they’re only part-time) are demanding, and it’s easy to take your parents for granted. They’re always there, and they always answer when you call. In fact, they’re probably hoping that today’s the day you pick up the phone. The reality is, they’re really interesting people. Once you cross that great divide into “adulthood,” the more valuable they become as resources, and as friends. Save yourself the trip to the head-shrinker…and ask them why and how. Get to know them. Maybe they did some pretty shitty things when you were younger. Maybe they were perfect. Either way, talk to them. They’re fascinating people now, because you held them above all others when you were little. Once they come down from that pedestal, they’re a wealth of insight into life and love and hard decisions, and it’s important that you learn everything they’re meant to teach you, even though you’re a grown-up now. I am a truly fortunate woman to be raised by women and men who love without conditions, and I’ve been taught that forgiveness is the key to true enlightenment. Forgive, and love, and you will prosper. There is no damage that can’t be undone if your heart is open to it. Sometimes good people, whom you love, make bad decisions. You’ve made bad decisions too (I assure you), and we are all human.
The same goes for your grandparents: your time with them is much shorter. They’re your best link to your history. I must say here, that I treasure these days that I get to spend with my grandmother. In less than 24 hours, I’ve learned that she worked for five years as a secretary for a mob operation in Tampa in the late 50s (ahem…an “ice machine distributor”), and that my great-grandmother (her father’s mother), for lack of a better word, was a badass. As my grandmother put it tonight: we come from “strong stock.” And it’s true. My great-grandmother (Dabney King, or “Bim,” as she was called), left her physician husband behind in Georgia in the early 1900s to become a schoolteacher in the swampland (he stayed behind to attend to his patients). She bought land on a lake here and built her own house with wood harvested from that land. That house on King Lake would become the house that my great-grandparents would live in, and later after their deaths, my grandmother. My grandmother, who lived in that house on King Lake, was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had a masectomy at 34, in the early 70s. She just had a second masectomy two days ago, a few months before her 70th birthday, due to a Stage 1 tumor in her remaining breast. My Granny is, withought a doubt the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I will write, one day, in depth about her life and challenges, but that is a bigger story for another time. She tells me that she thinks about Bim often, and how she would handle these situations. I didn’t know this amazing woman, but I thank her, for making me strong stock. And I love her, truly, for so positively influencing my grandmother, and passing down the instinct for survival and success to all of the women who came after her.
2. Know where you came from.
I say this, with a bit of hesitance. I come from Florida, or as a good friend from Cincinatti referred to my fair state back in college—the land of the newlyweds and nearly-deads. Yeah, this place is weird. If something unthinkable and bizarre happened in national news, it likely happened in Florida. But I offer this word of caution, before you pass judgement: Florida is a transient state, full of odd, transient people, from the other 49. I’m a fourth-generation Floridian on my mother’s side, and my father and his people came from the totally uncorrupt city of Chicago. Florida is the way it is…because of the rest of you weirdos. The Florida I know and love is unobstructed lake views, rows of citrus trees, and lots and lots of mosquitoes, spiders and gators. It’s a swamp, with coastline, and all of the things that are horrible and irritating about this place were imported from the Northeast and the rest of the Atlantic seaboard by people who wanted more sunshine. For us, it’s the natives versus the Great White Northerners. When it comes to locals, we’re content to sit on a lake all day, and not drive like assholes, and not brown ourselves silly like a burnt freaking biscuit. We like the water, and we like the heat, but we do not like your inability to be friendly and kind. You may not think you’re in the real South when you’re down here, but we like to fancy ourselves the truest Southerners by virtue of latitude. So behave.
Regardless of where you came from, and how much you love it-slash-think you’re above it, you are who you are because of it. Maybe you grew up on several different continents, and maybe you still live in the same town that you went to high school in. Maybe you moved away for a while and came back. Regardless, appreciate it, because it was critical in your formative years, and you wouldn’t be you without it. Go back and check in, if you’re far away.
If anything, if it’s nothing like you remembered it, it’s a humble reminder that the world does in fact, keep moving, even when you’re gone.