The Hierarchy of Stealing Time
The First Circle: The Circle of Untouchability
borrow – negotiate – steal
4. mom and dad
Honour your mother and your father.
That’s a commandment. It’s kind of important.
I realize that not all parents are created equal, so I will limit my thoughts and only speak about mine. I leave your heart and soul to deal and think about yours. Take from this what you like and leave what you don’t.
I am not naïve or oblivious of my past. I believe I knew my parents well. I’m going to skip all the ugly moments we experienced. They happened, we loved each other through them. It wasn’t easy. End of story.
I am omitting these memories here because they are no longer important. They are in the past. They have played their last chord. They have served their purpose.
My dad was fifty years old when he left his native Poland, along with his wife, his twelve your old little boy, and six suitcases. He came to Toronto, because he had to. His own country had imprisoned him, abandoned him, and threatened his very existence.
I am six years removed from being fifty. I have moved homes a few times in my lifetime and have learned that I absolutely abhor the experience. I hate moving houses, and so I can’t really imagine moving to another country, on another continent.
My mom and dad, courageously gave up their home, their extended family, their work, their friends, their country, their language, their memories, their culture; basically, they gave up everything they knew and everything they held dear.
They gave it up for me. They gave it up for each other.
I am eternally grateful and blessed to be who I am and be where I am.
My obligation towards my parents is instinctual. Intuitive. It comes from the gut. It is just who I am.
When we arrived in Canada in 1985, we lived in a hotel, then a little welfare apartment, then we moved up to a nicer apartment. Then my ass was finally kicked enough to learn something and make something of my life.
I finally had enough money to leave my nest, to leave my parents, and begin the life of a bachelor, and all the magic that it entails.
At the time, my parents retired because they could not physically keep up anymore, and as a lot of immigrant’s experience, they had no savings, and little hope of a continuous income. Together, they might have scraped enough money to live in a very small apartment, and might have had enough money each month to pay for cable, a telephone, gas, and a modest food allowance.
At that time, they came to me and asked me if I was willing to continue living with them.
They thought since we loved each other, we could continue living together, and share the monthly expenses. They would have to spend the money anyway. Why not do it together? We visited a lawyer, to see what the legal implications were entering such an arrangement.
I have an older brother, that I no longer communicate with. I will be honest and admit that the lack of communication is my fault. The last time I moved, I did not call him, or have the patience to inform him of where we were going. I am not that difficult to find though.
My parents wanted to make sure that they gave me something. They wanted me to enjoy my house, especially when they were gone.
That was their wish. I did not ask for it. I am just eternally grateful for it.
In my life, I never asked my parents for anything. As far as I figured I had all the things I ever needed. It was a non-issue. Ok. Once in a while, I got $20 here, or perhaps a little more there. Overall however, everything I own or have today, I have honestly earned though the sweat of my own brow.
My parents and I always lived together.
At first I lived with them, and in the last few years of their life, they lived with me.
I took the commandment about loving your parents very seriously. As a child I was surprised that it was even a commandment. I know deep in my heart that my parents were very pleased we remained so very close.
When I was dating, I remember being nervous of letting the young ladies know that I was a package deal. I knew that I could never abandon my parents. Everything I achieved and everything I am today, is because of them. Living together was as natural as breathing.
I did not have an exhaustive dating ledger (it was a very small book with a limited number of pages), but I am sure this was a deal breaker for some of the young ladies.
I am grateful to my wife, who found this to be one of my most endearing qualities. We’re still working on my sense of humour.
My mom and dad are the reason why I don’t complain much and why I try so hard to realize my dreams. I see all the sacrifices that they have made over the years; the momentous ones and the tiny, insignificant ones. I see all these sacrifices and have no choice but to be happy.
I have no choice.
If I embrace misery or mediocrity, then I squander their sacrifices. I will never forget their tears and hardship. I could not live with myself if I did.
I continue living a meaningful life and continue to be happy.
Like our spouses and our children, our parents, adopted parents, and even step parents, or guardians, can only be negotiated with.
We cannot steal or borrow any time from their life.
We need to cling to them, surround them, because time is of the essence.
My parents are both dead, and I can’t believe that it has been ten years since the last time I saw my mother’s smiling, loving face. I miss her every day. I talk to both my parents every day. I end each day telling them how much I love them.
If we follow our dreams, and we must, we need to negotiate our time wisely. If we spend less time with parents, it should only be because we are working hard to see more of them in the future.
We can never forget them, or ignore them. They are not someone else’s responsibilities. No one knows them and loves them the way we do. They are ours.
I remember one of my students coming to see me at the end of class one day and sharing how hard it was to visit her grandmother because she can no longer remember who she is. This young girl told me that she often doesn’t go to visit. As she choked up her tears she said it was simply too hard.
I was sympathetic. I still make no judgement. It is not easy.
I did ask her though what would happen if she did find the courage and visited her grandmother. I told her that it is very likely that she would not remember her. I told her that this would be very painful. I also asked her, if despite all of that, her grandmother would enjoy the visit.
The answer was yes.
In that moment, she realized that no matter how delicate her grandmothers state of mind was, a gift of time and the presence of a granddaughter, remains a precious gift.
No matter who visits her grandmother. No matter if she understands. A visit, is a visit.
It is our responsivity to respond.
We can choose to accept this seemingly unfair brokenness, and our own emotional cost if we have the courage to go. And if we do, we will become uncelebrated heroes. Heroines, not because we do something that is easy, but precisely because are willing to do that which is extremely hard.
Saints are extraordinary people who do ordinary things, while ordinary people stand by and imagine that the act is impossible because it is extraordinary.
I’m not really sure what you will make with all of this.
I hope it will help you ponder your life, your dreams, and what your responsibilities are towards your parents.
Don’t forget them.
Don’t forget your grandparents either.
Love the ones who have hurt you too (but that is a discussion for another time).
Spend time with them.
Don’t abandon them.
Don’t steal time from them.
If they are very close to the end. If they can see the sunset. I urge you to be compassionate and steal some time from your very dreams. It’s counter intuitive, I know, but God has a way of giving back, in a ways we never dream possible.
Honour your mother and your father.
You’ll thank me.
You’ll be happy.
They will help you French kiss your dreams.