Warmest regards: The best present in the world
When little kids get a present they’ve been wanting for a long time, they sometimes exclaim, “This is the best present in the world.”
Well, I just received the best present in the world. I’ve been longing for this present throughout the pandemic.
This present couldn’t be wrapped.
Doesn’t fit in a box.
But it is definitely the best present in the world.
It’s the gift of presence.
My daughter Andrea put aside her worries about flying during a pandemic to fly to Florida for my birthday. That was such an act of love because she’s been super careful because of COVID-19.
I also know she moved client meetings and worked for seven days straight so she could free herself to be with me on my birthday.
It’s been two years since I saw my family, so I was super excited about her visit.
She wasn’t even settled in properly before she kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday.
Hey, I had what a wanted when she arrived. No present can beat presence. Certainly there is nothing I value more.
“I know,” she said. “But I want to get you something special for your birthday.”
What could be more special than spending four straight days being with my daughter?
The only thing that could have made it better was if my daughter Maria could have gotten off work to be with us. Before the pandemic hit it was a mother-daughters tradition to go somewhere special for my birthday. Two years in a row the three of us flew to Italy for my birthday. Before COVID-19 hit we were planning where we would go this year.
Andrea shares my passion for kayaking, so that’s where we headed on this birthday. We rented glass-bottom boats and looked for manatee off the coast of idyllic Boca Grande. We paddled out to a sandbar where we were able to get out of our kayaks and join the bigger boats out there.
When one boat with a big sound system played rock music full blast, I couldn’t resist dancing a bit.
How special it was to be dancing in the middle of a channel with a brilliant blue sky overhead and turquoise blue water all around us. I felt like I was walking on water, and in a sense, we were.
It certainly was one kayak trip I won’t forget.
My friends Andy and Pauline added to our birthday fun by taking us on an evening pontoon ride, complete with a fire pit and weenie roast on the boat. I never envisioned roasting weenies while traveling on a pontoon boat.
Truth be told, there were so many special moments during Andrea’s four-day trip. But to me, the most special thing of all was that she made the sacrifice of time to be with me.
It isn’t easy arranging time to fly away to visit family. I understand there is always so much to do at home and on the job.
A generation or two ago, we had it easier when family all lived in the same town. I could walk across town to visit my mother any time I wanted. We lived close enough to my in-laws that they would visit almost daily.
When Andy got a job two hours away and we had to move, my father-in-law cried. “I’ll never see you,” he said.
We drove to visit them almost every weekend, but it wasn’t the same for him because he couldn’t walk to our house whenever he wanted. And to tell the truth, it was hard on us to cook and pack up food to make that visit every weekend.
But it was worth it because we realized we wouldn’t have our parents forever.
No one in my mother’s generation moved far from family, and most of my generation, including my 11 cousins, stayed close to home base.
What happens in many families is that kids move away for college and jobs. Most don’t come back. They stay busy with careers and then with raising their own family. It’s not easy to break away to visit parents in another town or another part of the country.
I have talked with countless parents who understand this. Yet they admit they ache to see their grown children.
One of my older friends proposed a solution. She told her daughter who was busy in her career that she understands she couldn’t take time to fly to see her mother.
“So how about if I fly to see you,” she proposed. “I want to make the trip while I’m healthy enough.”
It was a hard pill for her to swallow when her daughter said she was too tied up in work commitments to spend time with her mother.
She did remember to send her mother a huge flower arrangement for Mother’s Day. But her mother never did get to enjoy the time she craved with her daughter.
Three years later the mother passed away. Her daughter and son flew in for the funeral.
I went to school with the daughter so I went to the viewing. She was sobbing to me about how hard it was to lose her mother.
The gift of presence might be hard to give. But nothing could mean more to a parent.
The bottom line: Give that gift while you still can.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.