Posts Tagged ‘parents’

Good Health

When I was a young girl I would ask my father, “Dad, what do you want for your birthday?”

“Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”

“What would you like for Christmas?”

He would always, always say, “My health.”

I probably did an eye roll. What that even a thing back then?

Was hoping he would make my shopping easier. Because we are conditioned. We need to buy people presents on these special days. Would be nice if we had a clue as to what was wanted or needed.

He always meant it. He was nothing if not sincere.

Now I  am older. And Dad is gone.

If you asked me today, “Mary, what do you want for Mother’s Day? Christmas?”

I would say, “My health. The health of my family and friends.”

That’s all I want. That’s all I need.

Nothing else matters.

We don’t need to buy anything.

Some things just can’t be bought.





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I am still in my father’s home. Just for a few more days. Then I will head back to Malaysia and get on with life there. See and hug my sixteen year old who I have been missing a ton. A nice surprise is that my husband will be there for a week.

I have been so busy here assisting my mom with things that I feel like I haven’t grieved. Whatever that looks like.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been moments when my eyes fill up. Or that my throat gets caught. Because I guess the mind does allow a few seconds of reality to seep in now and again.

After Dad died I took stuffies out of the freezer.

Stuffies (for those living outside of the area) are stuffed quahogs. Quahogs (for those living outside of the area) are hard shelled clams. Its name comes from a local Native American tribe. And I have heard it pronounced all sorts of ways. The correct pronunciation is “kwaw hawgs.” And I’m sticking to it.

Clams are chopped up and then mixed with seasonings, bread and other ingredients. Sometimes it seems like everything but the kitchen sink. It just depends on who is making them. Once everything is mixed together the stuffing is then put back into the shell.


This picture is to give you an idea. You can see pepper, onion and clams in this one. But please keep in mind that this photo shows a quahog on steroids. The ones you buy at the store are not as generously packed. My brother brought some of these homemade bad boys for my dad from a club down the road.

For years, every time I went to heat up the stuffies, my dad would always say, “____ minutes for each one. And make sure you turn them halfway.”

Sometimes I’d hear him say it from the other room. Other times it was over my shoulder. He was nothing if not consistent and predictable.

And I would say, “I know, Dad. I know.” I was nothing if not consistent and predictable.

So, on this day, when I was about to heat them up with Dad no longer calling out from the living room, I just stood in front of the microwave. And stared. My eyes filled up and I whispered, “I didn’t know, Dad. I didn’t know.”

Then I had to look up the directions on the package.

I guess I didn’t ever really know and I’d give anything to hear him tell me once again just how many minutes it would take and to make sure I turn them halfway.

I don’t want to look up the directions. And it’s not because I’m lazy.

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It’s Christmas time again. Not sure how that happened. I mean, like I had a 364 day heads up to start preparing. And I did nothing with it. At all.

I am now 50. Yeah, that just happened. I had quite a bit of notice on that one also. But I do feel like I have done something with it. I’m not done, of course, but I’m in a good place.

Yes, I have wrinkles, spots, stretch marks and a few extra pounds. And all of these things tell my unique story. So they can stay. Ok, except for those stubborn pounds. Maybe I will work on those guys. One of these days.

This is not what bothers me about being fifty. What bothers me is not that I have aged. It is the fact that others have.

I see my contemporaries losing their parents. Every time I hear of someone losing a parent my heart really, really breaks for them.

See, I am blessed. I still share the same earth as my parents. And the truth is that I cannot imagine a world without them in it. Might sound a tad unrealistic. But it is the absolute truth. Because I think they are the best. They are my “go to” people.

I really don’t want a thing for Christmas. Because I already know that I have been given and continue to enjoy one of the greatest gifts.

My parents.

Thank you, Patrick and Eileen, for being the best parents for me. You know how much I love you. But you’ll never really know.

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I taught CCD when I lived in Texas. Okay, I’ll wait until you all get up from the floor and stop laughing.

I didn’t think I was up for the job when one of the boys (on the first day) asked, “Why did God make mosquitoes?”

I replied, like any good CCD teacher would, “Move it along, buddy. You’re in the wrong class. Beat it!”

But I enjoy a good challenge. I loved the young people so much and had so many learning and spiritual moments. Where I thought, “Wow.”

One week that stands out was with my class of middle-schoolers. Tough age. No one would dispute that.

We had asked all the parents of these students to hand write a letter to their child. Not a letter that told them to clean up their rooms or to get good grades. But a letter telling them how they felt about their child.

We could not complete the exercise unless the parents of every child in the classroom participated. They all did.

At the beginning of class we asked some questions like, “How many of you know your parents love you?” There was such hesitation. Because it’s middle school and for many other reasons.

My daughter, Rory, immediately shoots up her hand. The first one. I always thought if we could just bottle her confidence we would all be rich.  But the group, as a whole, did not raise their hands.

We dimmed the lights, lit some candles (because we’re Catholics) and passed out the parents’ letters to each child. And told them they could go ahead, open them up and read them.

Total silence.

It was one of the most special nights. A lot of the kids cried while reading their parents’ letters. Not sobs. But they cried. Boys and girls. Very emotional.

No words spoken.

As parents we tell them we love them. We also tell them to walk the dog, take out the trash, get decent grades, be good, don’t do this and don’t do that. Gets lost in the monotonous telling of it. It’s not special. “I love you” can sometimes lose its impact along the way.

It just happens.

I bet some of those kids still have those letters. To this day.

If you are a parent take a few minutes to write a letter to your child. Once you get started you might even get writer’s cramp. If you have living parents take the time to write down how important they are to you.

And once you are done with that? Go ahead and write to the other important people in your life.

It’s so very powerful. And it’s the write thing to do.

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I spoke to my parents this morning. They are in little old Rhode Island and I am here in Malaysia. So many miles between us.

When I hung up the phone I knew how incredibly blessed I was to have those two as my parents.

Don’t want to get sappy. Doesn’t happen often with me but sometimes there’s seepage. A couple of months ago I got choked up while talking to Mom.

I said before I hung up, “Mom, I just want you to know how much I love you.”

She said, “Oh, honey, I love you, too!”

“I know that, Mom, but I really just want you to know that you are the best mom and I want to thank you for that. I really appreciate everything you’ve done and do.”

She said, “I know that. You have shown that, in countless ways, through the years.”

Did it again today. Felt that overwhelming need to tell her how I felt. So I did. But when she heard me getting choked up she got quiet. She said she loved hearing what I was saying but felt badly that I was upset and crying. Being the mom.

I said, “No, don’t feel badly. I am fine. I just want you to know how happy I am to have you guys in my life. In my world. Don’t know what I would do without you.”

Maybe I am just getting old. Maybe it’s the distance. Or maybe I just need to let the people in my life know exactly what they mean to me.

I remembered, long ago, reading a story. Maybe it was a joke about the demonstrative Irish. I tried to find it but couldn’t. Google is not GOD.

So, this is how I recall it.

An Irishman is on his deathbed. We’ll call him Seamus.

His wife (let’s call her Bridget) is sitting by his bedside and says, “Seamus, Seamus, before you leave me, please answer me this. Did you love me?”

And he answered incredulously, “Ach, woman, surely you knew it all along!”

I think it is really important that all the people in your life know how you feel about them. You can’t assume. You have to tell them.

Show the love, yes. Just don’t forget to also tell the love.

Nothing bad gonna come out of that.

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