Being in the Present
Whew! We’ve just gotten past those couple of days each year when the greeting card companies make us crazy. You recognize these days by the long lines they create at the card counters – the frenzied hands reaching out to snatch pre-written sentiment from the racks with a panic usually reserved for those grasping lifelines in shark infested waters. When it comes to our moms and dads, Hallmark has convinced us that on 363 days a year we can happily go about our business, but shame on us if we don’t shell out $5.99 for a folded piece of cardboard on Mother’s and Father’s Day.
In the mayhem that surrounds the two days set aside to pay homage to those who gave us life, we wrack our brains to think of things they need, or things they might want, or things that will adequately convey the depth of our gratitude we know we owe them. Retailers thoughtfully place pop up bodegas of plastic-wrapped flowers in the middle of the hardware store aisles, or move tie displays near the checkout to offer us an easy, if stereotypical way out. I spent two hours in Best Buy recently, leaving exhausted and empty-handed. At eighty-six, my Dad’s list of wants can be written on a matchbook cover, and absolutely zero of those needs involve technology, but I was desperate. Sitting there in the parking lot, I started thinking about the quandary from the other side. As a parent, what did I want or need most?
I thought about the spontaneous jolt of joy that I get every time I see my daughter’s face. Sharing even the most mundane of moments is a present wrapped in shiny paper and tied with a bow. She’s an incredibly thoughtful gift-giver, but she needn’t spend a dime to deliver the very thing that I need most.
I realized that the gift she gives of herself is the one that means the most to me. Being there in the present is the very best present, and one that is increasingly rare in the busy world we inhabit. Whether it is in person, over the phone, or by any of the many myriad ways we communicate in this day and time, being there is the gift that keeps on giving, and one that is hopefully as rewarding for the giver as it is for the recipient.
My husband recently revealed that every morning that our daughter was away at college, his phone rang like clockwork. The conversations ranged in length from a minute or two to twenty or thirty, and ran a gamut of subjects weighing in anywhere from extremely heavy to lighter than air. She has been out of college for almost ten years, and he still remembers every one of those early morning calls as a precious gift.
It was with new perspective that I drove away from Best Buy. I made a promise to myself to be there for my Dad – in the present. Not just on the day that the card company told me to, but every day – in person, over the phone, or by any other means.
But just in case he didn’t get the part about being present actually being the present, I shelled out the $5.99 for a card – and also purchased Dad a very low tech fresh pineapple-slicing tool. I’m not sure it was on his wish list, but he talks a lot about fresh pineapple – and let’s face it, who doesn’t love getting a present.