May 2, 2010
We have one life to live and there is wisdom in living it well. They say curiosity, spontaneity and a spirit of adventure keeps you young at heart. I have discovered there is so much pleasure in doing something at the spur of the moment than planning and programming for months. I don’t usually like to sweat the small stuff but I am convinced when you do something, you’ve got to put your whole heart in it, no ifs no buts.
Let me tell you what happened the other day. I was exiting the grocery store and was offered a ride by our family friends, a retired bank officer and his wife. As I graciously hopped in, I noticed that the seats were covered with plastic sheets and I inquired if it was a new car. “Oh, no,” replied my friends “it’s been a little more than 4 years since we bought this one.” I sheepishly said: “Gee, the plastic covers on the upholstery made me wonder.” “Oh,” said Mrs. G. That’s because our grand kids used to ride with us, you see, we used to pick them up from the nursery once in a while. You know how messy the kids are- the biscuit crumbs, the diaper leaks, and the throw-ups. Yikes!” She continued “It’s not their fault; they have no idea what we have paid for the car.”
I just gaped at her with wonderment and I don’t know if she noticed the lump in my throat. “Now, we miss our grand children a lot.” she whispered under her breath trying hard to fight back the tears. Three months ago their only son had moved to the U.K. with his family leaving just a trail of memories behind.
What she told me was too hard for me to swallow. They have been riding the car with the original plastic sheets on for four years because they were afraid the grandkids would mess it up. ‘What is the use of buying an expensive car if you can’t enjoy the plush interior of your car against your skin?’ ‘They are your grandchildren, for heaven’s sake. Don’t you enjoy their company? I wonder if they regret not letting the children be children, the mess and all.’ My thoughts were going in all directions and I did not realize I had reached my home. Many of us make the same mistake. In anticipation of life tomorrow, we forget to live today.
Last month I thought I’ll pay my neighbors a visit. I was unable to make it to their housewarming couple of months ago. Every time I bumped into the Brittos they would remind me that I owed them a visit. Children were playing in the front yard. I went up the stairs and rang the doorbell. The doorbell chimed Ludwig Von Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ and as I stood there enjoying the melody, Mrs. Britto greeted me jubilantly and said “Welcome, welcome. Do you mind coming through the rear door? Our maid just finished mopping the floor.” “No, not at all, I tried to be polite even though I was getting a bit irritated.” The children also came barging in through the back door. “Wait, get down on your fours” yelled Mrs. Britto. Both the children knelt on the floor and started walking on all fours. Now I got a bit worried, I hope she doesn’t expect me to walk on four legs” I thought to myself. Before she could say anything, I asked her “should I also........?.” “come on, Lavina, are you kidding? The kids have been playing in the yard all evening, and I don’t want them to drag all the dirt inside. So, I send them straight to the bathroom to wash up.” I heaved a sigh of relief.
I left my footwear out and coyly entered the house, we walked past the kitchen and she brought me to the dining area. Please make yourself comfortable. I pulled out a chair and sat at the table. Beautiful crystal chandelier right above the dining table was too exquisite for words. She offered me a cool drink in a steel tumbler and said, “I hope you don’t mind, I have put away the crystal glasses in the cabinets.” “No, Mrs. Britto” I reassured her “that would be just fine.” ‘I care more about the contents, not the exterior’ I had to stop myself blurting it out. After all, it will not be politically correct. She gave me a tour of the house and all the furnishings and upholstery where it was made and how much they had spent on each piece. The Italian leather settees with plume fillings, teak wood dinette and the matching chairs, cane sit-out furniture, the eight foot tall grand father’s clock that came all the way from Japan, Jacuzzi in the bathroom, steam rooms and so on and so forth. I congratulated her and prepared to leave.
“Isn’t your mother-in-law home?” I inquired while leaving. Oh, we sent her to the home for the aged. She had been losing control of her bladder often and was having way too many accidents. In our old house we put up with the urine puddles and the stench. Besides, she is too old-fashioned for this modern house, you see” rattled Mrs. Britto in one breath. I didn’t know how to react. My heart must have missed a few beats.
On my way home I got to thinking. Mrs. Britto represents most of us, doesn’t she?” We build huge mansions but we don’t have room in our homes (and hearts) for our aging parents. While our expensive and exquisite silverware and crystals collect dust for years in our kitchen cabinets we prefer to use chipped, outdated chinaware. When our children are younger we don’t let them eat in the good plates for we are afraid they will drop them and when they are older they don’t bother to have dinner with us even if we take out the good crystals and silverware. How ironic!
Now, do you believe in living for today? Go ahead, give your children a hug whenever they need one; don’t shush them away. A peck on your cheek is priceless even with lips laced with ketchup or curdled milk from your two-year-old child or grand child. Use the best crockery and cutlery today, don’t wait for tomorrow. Invite friends and family over for dinner even if your upholstery is faded and the house badly needs a coat of paint. Remember, opportunities knock only once, they don’t ever come back. There’s more joy in getting drenched in the rain than carrying an umbrella ! What are you waiting for ?
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