— Anne Frank
“The Diary of a Young Girl”
Last week threw about five Mondays in my direction. Might have been more, but by mid-week I stopped counting.
Like a Phil Niekro knuckleball, I didn’t know what was coming next.
Everybody’s had weeks like that so this self-guided trip down Whiny Lane will sound oddly familiar to most.
In perspective, it wasn’t all bad. As a born-again optimist, albeit a grumpy one according to our newsroom staff, I believe it all balances out in the end. And truth be told, with the right state of mind — some call it “positive attitude” — the good days will far outnumber the bad regardless of circumstance.
But when times are at their toughest, I sometimes find myself thinking of my parents. That might sound a little odd seeing as though Dad’s been gone for about 22 years and Mom ended her painful bout with cancer back in ‘04.
As somebody once told me, “No matter how long they’ve been gone, you’ll think about your parents every day for the rest of your life.”
He was right. This wise man, who I consider a good friend, spoke from experience. You’re always being reminded of your parents whether it’s a favorite meal, a hobby, an old scrapbook, a movie, an aging uncle or aunt, a stranger’s handshake or just an expression someone uses that Dad always favored and Mom always chuckled when it was said.
As a much younger man heading into his own life and career, I found their counsel to be priceless. The advice wasn’t always relevant, but their ability to listen — and to hear — forever brought a warmth, a smile and a comfort like nothing else in this world. In my book, they were tops. They weren’t perfect. But heck, neither am I. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
The other day I came across an “Annie’s Mailbox” column that might not have ever made it into our newspaper because it was dated for a Saturday edition. It reminded me of my parents because the writer’s thoughts mirrored my own.
Figuring that a lot of folks feel this way, especially those who have laid their parents to rest either long ago or recently, I’m printing that letter today. The author signs it, “Young Adult Who Is Better For It.”
It starts off, “I am writing a long overdue thank-you note to my parents. They are faithful readers of your column.”
And now the letter:
“Mom and Dad, I am thankful that:
“You stood your ground and did not give in to me, even when I threw fits and demanded my way.
“You supported me in school and gave me the tools to succeed instead of letting me waste my potential.
“You made me honor the commitments I had made instead of allowing me to quit when it became hard or boring.
“You took me to church on Sundays rather than allowing me to sleep in.
“You insisted that I respect authority, not thinking it was cute when I defied adults.
“You made me speak using clean language, not tolerating profanity even though ‘everyone else talked that way.’
“You checked my Facebook page and other social media, making me remove anything inappropriate or insulting to others.
“You explained the dark and dangerous path I was choosing when I was tempted to dabble in alcohol and drugs, instead of turning a blind eye.
“You encouraged and persuaded me to wait when I considered having sex as a teen rather than buying me birth control.
“You showed me how to forgive others and overlook offenses instead of letting me develop a bitter spirit.
“You taught me the value of teamwork, not a ‘Me First’ attitude.
“You guided me to develop goals and not live for immediate self-gratification.
“You helped me choose friends carefully and wisely instead of welcoming everyone into my life under the guise of being non-judgmental.
“You insisted that I apologize when I was wrong and make efforts at reconciliation rather than create unnecessary enemies.
“You lectured me often instead of biting your tongue.
“You were the authority figures in the home, and I knew it. Even though I yelled that you hated me, I didn’t really believe that. I knew that every word and action from you came from a giant heart of love.
“Here’s to you, Mom and Dad. Thank you for your courageous parenting.”
Obviously, people have different experiences as kids while at home. By today’s standards, this writer sounds about average.
I found myself relating to many, though not all, the above. But I wasn’t keeping score. What I was noticing was involvement. This writer had some parents who cared. So did mine. I have the memories to prove it.
Like Holocaust victim Anne Frank said, in quoting her father, “... All children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
Anne’s father was right.
Thanks Mom. You too, Dad. You didn’t hear that enough in your living years.
And by the way, the “Annie’s Mailbox” response to the letter read, “We hope every parent who reads your letter will make a copy to keep by their bedside and believe that their own child wrote it.”
Mine won’t be reading it. But I can still think it. And I will always believe it.