How do you measure them?
For some, it needs to be grandiose: getting their PhD., finishing a marathon, writing a novel. For others, what seem like simple tasks can give the same type of gratification: asking that cute girl out finally, saving up enough money for a trip, getting out of bed in the morning.
I tend to relate more to that second group of people. Which, if you talk to my family, or people who knew me in my youth (middle school), might surprise you. The world was my oyster so to speak when I when I was young. I could read by the age of two, I was conjugating verbs in Grade One (I went to a French language school), and I could spell better than anyone in my class by Grade Two. I was offered advance course-work in lieu of skipping a grade (which I didn’t want to do). I was added to an experimental integrated 4-5-6 class to test new teaching methods. Everything was gravy.
Somewhere along the line, academic accomplishments didn’t elicit the same type of response for me. I became complacent. My grades suffered, and here I am a 28 year old retail manager with no sheepskin to laud as an accomplishment of my educated mind. I’m not writing this to lament the “what-ifs” though…
I left home when I was 18 on really bad terms.
Really bad terms.
Like any strong-headed, testosterone-influenced, barely-adult male, I thought it was now my way, and MY highway. One of my dad’s favourite sayings growing up in regard to his rules was: “Like it, or lump it”. I’m not 100% sure to this day what “lump it” means. What I do know is that I would take many emotional lumps over the years after leaving. Perhaps I should have learned to “like it”. I thought I was ready to face the world; I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Bridges can be mended over time though. Slowly, my parents and I have reached peaceful terms. I enjoy visiting them. I enjoy spending time with them. While I don’t get to go back as much as I would like (Thank you travel options in Canada), I cherish the times we do have.
My dad narrowly avoided a heart-attack about 7 years ago. Mum forced him to go to the hospital when he wasn’t feeling well after curling, and it ended up in an angioplasty. I had been home exactly once since I had moved to this point. Once in 3 years. I quickly packed my bags and caught the next manageable flight back to see if I could help.
Dad was doing mostly ok, but he was very lethargic. We didn’t really do much outside of having dinners at home. There was a night that my parents had planned to go see a concert. It was called “Guitar Women”, and featured several notable local blues guitarists: Sue Foley, Roxanne Potvin, Ellen McIlwaine, and Rachelle van Zanten. I had no plans that particular night, so Mum ended up taking me to dinner.
You have to understand, things were still really frosty by this point. When I say “bad terms”, I mean, I left a letter in the mailbox and jumped on a plane. I had never really been either a “momma’s boy” or “daddy’s boy”. I guess I spent as much time between the two enjoying my childhood. Dad was all about the sports and music, Mum took me to museums, galleries, and handled the crafts and art. I couldn’t remember the last time my Mum and I just “hung out”. It was nice though. She took me to dinner near the theatre where the concert was. We talked about a whole assortment of things: relationships, work, the family, and even politics. My Mum is a lot more well-read than I think a lot of people give her credit for. She reads a lot and tries to stay on top of what is going on in the world. After the show, we were both smiling and laughing.
I really can’t over-emphasize the importance of that last part.
Laughing and smiling.
This is something I had felt would never be restored to our relationship as mother-son. There’d been so much damage done by my leaving, and lack of communication over the years, the visit to that point had felt like an obligation. This was the catalyst for repairing things between my parents.
Which brings me back to accomplishments. Sometimes you feel like perhaps you haven’t accomplished as much as you would have liked or were “supposed to”. I think it’s really important to step outside of what is considered a “societal achievement”, and look for the little things to be proud of in life.
I think we’re all guilty of taking for granted how powerful such small accomplishments are. Our parents spend so much time and effort fussing over us, making sure we’re safe, happy, and secure. We often forget to think of the importance of showing them how much we value them in our lives. Restoring a happy, healthy, and loving relationship with my parents, regardless of how often we get to see each other, is a really big feather in my cap.
Maybe I don’t have a fancy diploma, a rad sports-car, and have never been all over Europe.
Maybe I don’t need to have all those things to feel like I have a full life.
I miss you Mum