Yesterday I had a fifteen mile run on the calendar. It was going to be a bit warm, so I decided to head out early. I woke up at 4 am, had a bowl of oats, nuts and fruit, and a glass of milk, then went back to bed. At six I got up, drank two glasses of water and tended to various things, before heading out at 6:55 for my run.
Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the States. I knew I had a couple of hours ahead of me, alone with my thoughts. I’m a child of families which have boasted multiple service members, differing branches, but military service is something I’ve always been taught to respect. Yes, I am a hippy and a child of the seventies, as well. It’s just that I do not find respect for service members and hippie values to be mutually exlusive. You don’t have to personally uphold something’s value (war) to respect the sacrifices of the individuals involved (extraordinary men and women). I respect those who have served and those who are serving their country.
So, I began my run thinking about my grandfather especially, my mother’s father, as I always do on commemorative days like Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, etc. I miss him so much, even after all these years… but that’s not what I thought about. I just thought about him. He was such a great guy. A good grandfather. Both he and my grandmother consistently conveyed the message to me that it wasn’t enough to be pretty. You must also be of value.
Both of them were also very concerned that I should be informed, this was so important to them that I now giggle sometimes when I remember the various ways they would try to teach me during my summers with them. For instance, the summer that I was nine, I remember learning cooking, baking, papier mache, gardening, the game of hearts, and how to set a table from my grandmother. She also gifted me with a book of Bible stories because, though we weren’t a religious family, she wanted to make sure that when people referred to the Bible, I would be capable of having an informed discussion on the topic. This is how they spoke to me at nine years old. “You don’t want to be ignorant, ignorant is never a good thing.”
Both of them encouraged any little thing I wanted to try or learn about. And those things I didn’t really care about… they encouraged me to be curious about those things too. That same summer, my ninth, I remember yawning in my grampa’s lap, on his large leather rocker, while he droned on and on about geography. He had a large globe on a brass stand and he’d pulled it over next to his rocker, spinning and pointing at various points, then telling me all he knew about them. That man knew A LOT about the world, let me tell you. At nine, I didn’t appreciate it, but now? I know very few adults who could do that these days. In his generation, it was just part of being a man “in the know”. You kept up. You read the paper every day. My grandparents did.
I’d come down from my room mid-morning each day of the summer, and it was the same scene every single day. Gramma and Grampa in the breakfast room, a very sunny spot with mural wallpaper and crystals in the windows. Two papers spread out all around the table and each of them engrossed in some article. Gramma would hoot and read Grampa snippets or Grampa would arch his eyebrows in consternation and talk for fifteen minutes about the minute historic details of some event happening somewhere in the world.
There was always toast and coffee, and Gramma would often have pound cake for me in the summers. She indulged me (and Grampa, by association – he loved it when I came to visit because his neglected sweet tooth got lots of feeding!), especially when it came to foods. She used to joke that she could never keep enough fruit in the house for me. I was a fruit snatcher. The fruit bowl was teeming with anything I wanted, all the time, it seemed. Sometimes she even froze grapes for me as a special treat. It was the one place in my life where I never had to ask permission to eat the last apricot.
That was just Gramma and Grampa’s house. It was actually a magic place for me, growing up. Mom and I were so damn broke all the time that my few weeks of summertime spent at my grandparents’ house was akin to pure spoiling, as far as I was concerned. That was also the summer Grampa first let me use his scroll saw in his workshop. He taught me dominoes and tangram logic games. He and Gramma both encouraged me to write and sing and play instruments. They took me places they knew I’d otherwise not see.
So I thought about my grandfather, yesterday specifically. But, as you may have guessed by now, I think of my grandparents often anyway. How different, how limited my life may have become, had they not been so much a part of my formative years.
My grandfather was at Korea in the 50s, and I was reflecting on what he might say today, with regard to the current state of affairs there. I can see his worry and anger, I see his face in my mind’s eye, clear as a bell, and the deep furrow of concern (frustration?) between his eyebrows. I have those same expressively arched eyebrows. Highly mobile things which I can cock left or right in disapproval when I need to. Thanks, Grampa. He died young, too early. But his legacy is that he remains with me daily, in all my thoughts and actions, because he’s a part of me.
I had fifteen miles of thoughts to chew on, and the weather was gorgeous, that early in the morning. Naturally, my thoughts turned to other things. Sometimes a song comes around on the playlist and it spurs a new train of thought. What I wound up thinking about in the last few miles was how our mileage varies so drastically, from one person to the next. How some people die so young but live so much in that time, while others live so long but take few chances. Travel seems to be a determining factor, actual mileage seems to increase the “quality-mileage” of our lives. I firmly believe that everyone should travel as much as humanly possible. It is a sure counteracting agent to ignorance.
And so I ran. I thought. I smiled at strangers, as the morning wore on and people began to come out into the world. I thought about my own actual mileage in my relatively short life so far. I’m not yet 40 and I have experienced and seen so much… it’s been an eventful first half. And, like my mother and my grandparents did during my childhood, I find that I share so much of what I’ve learned with my own kids, feeling that same insistent concern for the state of their minds and souls.
Maybe you don’t run. Maybe you walk. Maybe you shop. Maybe you bake. Maybe you knit. Doesn’t matter, really. Never pass up the opportunities to be alone with your thoughts and reflect on your mileage and its quality.
You have an effect and you affect everyone around you. Your mileage has real world value.
You know what exact words I’ve heard over and over, since I dropped Facebook like a hot potato? “I miss you online!”
How depressing it is to think that that sentence not only exists, but is acceptable and said without a hint of irony. I understand the sentiment behind it, and usually respond warmly that I’m still around and a phone call away, because I know it is said in the spirit of friendship.
In real life, I don’t exist for anyone’s entertainment, I’m just me. So, that sentence also brings home to me what I have already said, Facebook is not really about friendships so much as it is about entertainment. My friends find me and I find them, without the integratory social construct. We just send a text or an email and set up a meeting. That’s not old fashioned, that’s actual socializing. But, in a busy-o-so-busy world, it also means I have far less contact with my friends than I did while I was still on Facebook.
This was something else I thought about yesterday: In our current social map, there is a premium set on Being Busy™. But, in all that Being Busy™, it sure seems as though no one gets anywhere. There is actually negative mileage occurring. How sad.
It All Adds Up.
I want to be active, with a full and varied lifestyle, rife with occurrences and plans… but I no longer have the desire to be constantly busy. It doesn’t serve my family or my friends. It doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve my community. Busy is activity for the sake of activity… I’d rather be of value.
I want to make my mileage count. Hard work, hard times, sure. But also fully felt and fully experienced. That’s what makes the good stuff really count. Good stuff becomes a treat, like frozen grapes, sweet and cool.