When I came up with my list of prompts for the 31 Days of Summer Lovin’ 2016 challenge, I didn’t realize how hard some would be. Take today’s prompt as an example: BARBEQUE.
It’s summer, and I love going to barbecues and food prepared on a grill, but how do I respond to this prompt?
I went through a library of images on my computer to see if anything fit. Search results: zero. I paged through old diaries to see if I had penned anything that might work. Search results: zero.
So now I am sitting here, trying to figure out how to respond, and I think the answer is to just type.
A memory from my childhood keeps appearing as I think of BARBEQUE (rather, GRILL), and it involves my father. His spirit has been around lately, felt by me, my brother, my nephews, and my husband, so I find it fitting to write about him.
Sausage sandwiches were one of my father’s favorite foods. He was even known to buy them at flea markets and automobile race events well before lunchtime. And he wouldn’t get just one, either. For a man with a normal to small appetite, he could easily put two or three away no problem.
One summer evening, we ate dinner outside on the deck. I’m thinking I was about 11 years old, but I might be way off. Dad grilled Italian sausages, along with onions and peppers, for sausage sandwiches. I vividly remember bean salad and cucumber salad as the sides prepared by my mother.
As we got ready to eat, Dad reached out for the vinegar to douse his sandwich with. I don’t remember if he put anything else on his sausage sandwiches besides vinegar, which doesn’t sound all that appealing to me but that was what he liked.
He turned the bottle upside down, and the “vinegar” came pouring out all over his sandwich, then his entire plate.
Well, he hadn’t grabbed the vinegar bottle…he grabbed his beer instead.
At first, I was afraid he was going to flip out because Dad could have a bit of a temper at times. I was frozen, waiting for the tirade to come…
Well, he picked up the dripping sandwich and took a bite, and then another, and another.
I remember all of us laughing as he enjoyed his dinner of a beer-marinated sandwich and salads.
A snippet of a 30+-year-old memory from my brain’s file cabinet, one of the few times I recall my father going with the flow.
Going with the flow makes life’s caution and penalty flags more memorable, and choose laughter over anger.
One of my favorite television shows is “Cheers.” The classic story lines, superb acting, hysterical moments, and witty one-liners keep me coming back for more 24 years after its original run on NBC ended. (Sidebar-How has it been 24 years since the finale?!?! It seems like yesterday!)
“Cheers” used to be a staple on TV Land, back before their original programming overtook the classics. For several years, I could not find reruns of the classic series on any channel. I bought a few episodes from iTunes, so I was able to rewatch those, but I missed seeing all of the episodes and couldn’t afford to purchase the DVD box set.
Thankfully, both The Hallmark Channel and MeTV started airing “Cheers” again last autumn. My DVR records each and every episode so I can enjoy the show whenever it is most convenient for me. With my busy schedule, I rarely have the time to actually watch an episode, and more often have an episode playing just for background noise.
However, there are some episodes that are so good they make me stop what I am doing and watch it for the “nth” time.
One such episode is the series finale, “One for the Road.” I watched it last month, and the idea for this post has been brewing since then. I struggled until now to find the right words that conveyed the magnitude of a seemingly innocent statement made by one of the series regulars as they all said goodbye to each other and to their audience.
“One for the Road” is one of the best series finale episodes ever made, with so much happening on both literal and symbolic levels. For instance, I love that Sam goes over and adjusts the Geronimo picture as a tribute to Nicholas Colasanto (who played Coach), and that Sam exits the last scene by walking into the pool room (which is how he entered the series in Episode 1, walking in from the pool room).
There is one quote by Dr. Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammar) that really hits me in the gut every single time I hear it:
“Time goes by so fast. People move in and out of your life. You must never miss an opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you.”
He then goes on to tell his friends that he, he, he…. he trails off, and what is left unsaid is that he loves them all.
Frasier’s simple statement got me thinking.
How many times have I had the opportunity to tell the important people in my life how much they mean to me?
How many times have I actually done it?
Here’s a haunting example.
I was in a very cranky mood the very last time I spoke to my father before he passed away in December of 2014. I let the effects of a terrible day poison my being and my soul. When I was asked to drop something off at my parents’ house, I was not in the best of spirits. He saw that I was disheartened and irritated. He hugged me and said that he hoped tomorrow would be a better day for me. I left in a huff, choosing to go home where I could mope and sulk instead of spending a little more time with him and my mother.
Two days later, Dad passed away in his sleep from a massive stroke.
Instead of appreciating the chance to spend time with him two days earlier, I allowed the poison from my bad day to infect me, preventing me from savoring a moment that, in retrospect, I should have cherished.
I never got a chance to tell him, one last time, that I appreciated him, simply because I let things that were out of my control overwhelm me.
That was, and still is, a hard lesson to swallow. I know I cannot go back to change that moment, but if I could, oh how I would…
Hearing Frasier’s words last month reminded me of the painful lessons I learned from that fateful day in December 2014, but Dad would be proud that I learned from my mistakes:
- I will no longer allow the day’s poison to infect me. I will leave the poison at its source, and do everything possible to rise up positively against its negativity. I will find the good in each day, no matter how hard I might have to look.
- I will treat everyone with kindness and compassion, no matter what negative influence(s) might be present.
- I will cherish each moment spent with loved ones, friends, colleagues, and students, and be present during those moments.
- I will let people special to me know how much they mean to me. For example, I might write a note or a card to thank someone for their presence in my life. Perhaps I’ll send a picture with some words of gratitude or share a memory that I hold dear. My goal is to reach out to at least 3 people per week through handwritten means (versus text, email, social media, or any other form of technological connection).
- Finally, I will do my best to not complain about things that are out of my control. Instead, I will take each moment as it comes and deal with the situation the best I can without letting it overpower me.
Frasier Crane’s words of wisdom are as poignant and true today as they were in 1992.
Don’t miss an opportunity to tell the people who mean the world to you how much they mean to you before it is too late…because you might never have that opportunity again.
Don’t wait another minute to change your life for the better by heeding these important lessons.
The time is now.