Dear Esther,

I am an eighty-something-year-old mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Thank G‑d, I am of sound mind and sharp as ever. Unfortunately, my body hasn’t kept up with my mind, and I suffer from several issues that keep me at home, alone most of the time. Though I love to read, watch TV, and speak on the phone with friends and relatives, my days are very long.

Because I have so much time on my hands, I tend to think a lot, probably more than I ever did until this point. In some ways it’s good, as I think so much about who I am and what took place during my life, and I’m able to understand myself and others better than ever. This makes me feel good and lets me know that my mind is still working and I’m able to figure things out.

One of the things that I’ve figured out, for better or for worse, is that there are 10,080 minutes in a week. Having a great deal of time on your hands allows you to figure out such things. And I ask myself, again and again, why it is that–considering all those minutes that each and every one of us has during the week–children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren can’t take out just five minutes out of their week to call their mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother to check in and see how she is doing.

Don’t get me wrong. I have a wonderful family that I’m very proud of. They are a great bunch! And many of them do call me regularly, some even every day. But there are many who don’t bother calling me at all, or maybe only once a month, if it strikes their fancy. I think I have good relationships with everyone in my family. I try to always be upbeat and encouraging to everyone. I try not to burden anyone with my aches and pains and really ask next to nothing of anyone. But I can’t help thinking that if everyone took just five minutes out of their 10,080 minutes in each week and called me–besides the fact that it would make my week so much more interesting and busy–it would make me feel that I am thought about on a regular basis.

So I’m writing this letter to you, hoping that maybe someone in my family reads it and shares it with others in my family. But even if no one in my family sees it, I’m hoping that all the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren out there who are reading this column now decide to take this little bit of time out of their very busy days, at least once a week, to call their elderly loved one and make her feel special and happy. They have no idea how much this will mean.

A Babbie

 

Dear Babbie,

You are an amazing woman! For you to be so self-aware, so mindful, and so smart at your age (or any age) is very impressive. Thank you for sharing your feelings and putting out a letter that will no doubt be read by many individuals and certainly has the potential of affecting countless lives in such a positive way.

You are absolutely right. No matter how busy we are–and many people are super-busy these days–everyone can find at least five minutes out of their busy weeks to make such an important call. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone to neglect something so simple yet so meaningful.

I think the biggest issue here is that people who have not walked in another person’s shoes don’t really understand or appreciate what it means to be that person. We’re all so busy going, doing, achieving, worrying, that it’s easy for some to neglect the time that would be necessary to consider what it feels like to be living the life of the “other.”

A young person who is always on the go has no frame of reference for what it must be like to sit at home all day with nowhere to go and nothing special to do. One day drags into the next with little excitement or surprise. And yet, sometimes, just a simple phone call from a grandchild can brighten an otherwise dull, predictable day. What a small effort to make for something that could feel so large!

I do hope that your letter begins a conversation that travels far and wide and that it has practical impact on your life and hopefully the lives of many other individuals who find themselves in a similar situation.

I would be remiss, however, not to say the following. Any time any of us can exchange expectations for appreciation, we are ahead of the game. I do get the sense that you appreciate your wonderful family and are probably very proud of and grateful to all of them. And of course the ability to let go of all expectations is naturally quite difficult for most people–it’s almost counterintuitive. Most of us believe that just by our very existence, we are entitled to certain things from all the people who mean the most to us. Especially when we believe we have been a constant source of unconditional love and kindness toward them. But these expectations can set us up for disappointment and even a great deal of pain.

Therefore, though I do hope that your relatives all wake up to the importance of calling you at least once a week, I encourage you to continue enjoying all the relationships and hobbies that you have that you can count on and that will never disappoint or let you down in any way. That’s where we all should place our focus and appreciation–on those people and things in our lives that are satisfying constants.

Again, thank you for sharing your insightful thoughts.

Esther

Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals and couples. Together with Jennifer Mann, she also runs the “Navidaters.” She can be reached at mindbiz44@aol.com or 516-314-2295.

 

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