Sunday, April 19, 2009
It seems every trip, it happens! I'm never sure when it will occur. It might be early in the morning...just the two of us with everyone else asleep. Or sometimes, it will be in the evening when Walt is upstairs watching football or a Blazer's game. But the one thing that I can always count on is that it WILL happen.
Five years ago, I would have hated it. Probably done most anything to try to avoid it. I would have slept in late until everyone else was up. Or I'd feign tiredness and rush off to bed. Or, and sadly this is the most likely...I'd sit there and listen, and simply lie through my teeth, silently praying that it would be over soon. This event that might be so terrible? Simply talking.
I visited my sister and her husband this weekend and had a wonderful time. As always, I was spoiled rotten with great food and an abundance of love. Usually, I even get to win at cards, but that didn't happen this trip. But the talk my sister and I had that has become a tradition of sorts. Walt was out mowing the lawn and Toby was out resting after a long walk and swim down to the river. That left Debbie and me about an hour and half to sit around the kitchen table to just talk.
I've come to cherish these conversations. Both of us simply seem to be able to talk about nearly everything and anything. Personal things that I don't share with many people...and that I never shared with my wife when I was married. Fears. Dreams. Anxieties. Advise. Sometimes...perhaps even a rebuke (I know I've received them, I'm not sure I've given one yet). For some, this wouldn't seem like such a big deal, but for me it's a major milestone. I simply am no longer afraid to have "real" conversations with the people that I love.
One of the benefits of travelling the 120+ miles each way to my sister's is the time I have alone to think and contemplate and reflect on my way home. My sister has revealed her heart to me over the past year and half, and during that process...has revealed her vulnerabilities. I know how hard that is to do. You only do that with those that you have genuine relationship with and trust completely.
As I drove home, getting off the freeway and travelling the back highways as much as possible, I thought a lot about our family today. And it saddened me as I thought about the relationships...or lack thereof...that we have with each other. I had to start by looking at myself in the mirror. For most of my married life, I had detached myself from most of my family...especially my sister and my younger brother. I really didn't have any good reason and I don't believe it was intentional in an attempt to hurt either of them, but I didn't work at building or maintaining a relationship with either of them. And I know that they were both hurt by my insensitivity.
My life has changed dramatically in the past five years and I have been touched and amazed at the way each of my siblings have reached out to me to give me love and support. I have to honestly say that at first, I wasn't very receptive, but none of them gave up. And now, by the grace of God, my heart has been softened to the point where I cherish the relationships that I now have. They are so unlike any that I have had in the past.
The most significant difference is that I understand that I don't need the relationships to be whole, but they help to make me whole. I don't need the relationships to know that I am loved, but they help me to feel loved. I don't need the relationships as my only way through a tough time, but they help me to make it through. I don't need the relationship, but I'm so glad that I have them.
I don't really know if I truly understand why at this point in my life, I've decided to reach out and re-establish these relationships that I had been so careless about for so many years. There are things about each of my siblings that I struggle with...things that I wish were different somehow. But call it maturity (or simply the wisdom that comes with old age), but the differences aren't that important any more. I no longer try to expend my energies trying to change any of them...because it would be a fruitless exercise, and who's to say I'm right in the first place. I simply want each of them to know that I love them and want them to know that I'm here for them when they need me.
As I drove up the wooded highway through Bucota and Tenino and Rainier, my heart had a longing and a hope. It sounds simple, but I know the difficulty below the surface. That hope? That all of my family would find restoration in the relationships between each of us. To put the hurts and the anger and the sense of betrayal and the lack of understanding behind us, and do what God created us to do and commanded us to do...love one another. Not in words, but in the way we interact with one another...the way that we relate with one another.
I know that for me, it has to start with me. I know I've taken a few steps in the right direction and I'm learning to believe that when one of my siblings "hurt" me in some way, that it wasn't intentional. I'm learning that one of the best ways that I can show my love for each of them and work at building my relationship with them is to listen...and talk...and be gently honest in everything.
I don't know where the next one will occur. They can't be planned, because it will never be as good. But, I know it's coming...and I look forward to what I'll hear, and what I'll say...and the strength that it will bring to our relationship.