When my dad returned home last week from England, he brought with him a slew of boxes and envelopes, which accompanied him to my doorstep this past Saturday. Inside ranged everything from childhood photographs of me to my grandad’s pocket watch, complete with a receipt from fifty years ago, to my nan’s prayer book from when she was a girl, accompanied by a miniature gold St. Christopher necklace. We reminisced for hours about times gone by, and explored the history vaults to learn incredible things about our family’s past.
While he’d been out there, his main goal was to get the family together to show my nan, still in hospital, that there are people that care for her immensely. Some of these people hadn’t seen her (or each other) in twenty years. Four fifths of my lifetime. Things which can drive people apart for years can seem so insignificant at times like these, and naturally, the reunion was emotional. But what made me happiest wasn’t just the news of a reunion, but the report back from my dad. When he’d first arrived, he said, my nan had looked like she’d “given up.” Frail, weak, alone – given up on the world. By the end of the week she’d been reunited with her own sister, her sons, daughter and grandchildren, and was a “different woman”. Colour in her cheeks and a smile on her face, and to hear those words warmed my heart.
He’d also met some other relatives while out there, one of which had been researching the family’s genealogy, and sent me some very interesting information along with the box of treasures my dad carried home. I saw original birth certificates dating back to the 1800s, newspaper articles and letters from the 1940s, old birthday cards from my dad, as a boy, to his mum, and stories and secrets wilder than I could’ve imagined. His dad’s wallet, home to several old photographs of his children, his wife, and letters we daren’t open, I imagine etched with words from the heart – words which may have been lost over time, but remained immortalised on a piece of paper he carried with him always. My dad also gave me a small cap – as seen in this photograph of him as a boy with his mum and dad, loved, gleeful and surrounded by pigeons! I’ve always adored this photo, and have it framed on my desk here as I write this, and now I, too, have a little piece of our history.
The last few months, as you know, have been hard for me, being so far from my nan, and the family really coming together again after all this time really made me think. How easy it is to allow the little disagreements with loved ones blow completely out of proportion, and before too long, days, months, years go by. We can be so quick to allow a disagreement manifest into a full on grudge, which, like a thief in the night, before too long has stolen away a chunk of your life – a piece of time that can never be taken back. It usually takes something big to make us realise that the power given to a grudge will only repay us with a harsh regret; a sharp awakening to the reality of time lost. There too often is never a second chance to be had to go back, to try again, to instead be filled with swift apologies, good memories, assurances of love. I’m so thankful my nan was able to be reunited with her family, and so very proud of my dad for lifting the veil of bitterness to reveal what’s really more important.
It’s given me food for thought. Life is flying by ever more quickly with every day that fleets across my path, and though so often in times of disagreement, I’m quick to want to move forward – I know I’m guilty of allowing things to affect me for far too long afterward. I allow my heart to wallow if wounded, to perpetuate despondency instead of more quickly realising that life really is too short, and we should do all we can to spend as much of it as possible making the most of the time (and the people) we’re given. It’s something I think we can all work on.
I don’t want to give any more time than necessary to conflict or sadness. I want to fill my days with laughter and love, and look back at a shoebox in fifty years full of a new generation of letters, memories and happiness. Let’s make the most of the days we’ve been given, yes? And next time we’re faced with post-argument remorse, let’s try to remember, in the subsequent moments, that we really do have a choice. We can choose to swallow our pride, and get on with making the best of life.