My husband and I married young. Six months into our marriage, we moved to Winston-Salem for his job. I knew no one in our age group. My husband’s job kept him traveling often which was hard on both of us. I was soon hired by a large company where I worked in a big room with a number of other people. The room was painted with what people use to call cafeteria green and had no windows. In order to know what the weather was like, you had to walk down the hall to the stairwell to see the outside through a tiny window. I was not the happiest of people.
In a phone call to my parents, I remember complaining about my job to my dad. His words, which will always stay with me, “You were hired in good faith to do a job. You owe it to the employer to give it your best. Either change your attitude, or look for another position. No one is responsible for your happiness except you.” Exactly.
So, when I saw a post that included a “Dear Abby” column, those words came back to me. The author was sending a message about the senior population. In it, she wrote about how our children grow up, get married and have children and those children do the same. The essence of the letter to “Dear Abby” was to point out how family members get so busy with their own lives, they don’t have time for their elderly parent, grandparent and/or great-grandparent. She writes, “By this time, we’re old and sometime need help with housework, yard work or just would like to get out of the house to go eat or shop. We still have feelings, and we’re not dead. But, while it may not be intentional, it seems there is no time for the elderly.”
While that is unfortunate, it may be necessary to look at the big picture. I have no idea when a “wise woman in North Carolina” wrote this, but my parents never lived near my grandparents. Physically helping them out was impossible as they lived 1,700 miles away. Most of the communication between us was in the form of letters and the occasional long-distance phone call. My maternal grandparents never came to visit as they didn’t like to travel, and my paternal grandparents only made the trip twice. It was up to us to make the journey to see them – it was just the way it was, so we did.
The letter continued. “We say we’re fine and don’t mind being alone, but it is lonely at times. No one calls to say ‘hello’ or ask if we need anything. How long does it take to make a call? It would be nice if each family member called once a week or came by once a month.” As a mom with three young children, my days were filled with so many things on a to-do list, that sometimes my first meal was dinner. Did I call my parents? Yes. Was it on a weekly schedule? No. Was I put on a guilt trip? No. My parents, especially my mom, knew how things were. She had no trouble picking up the phone and calling us whether she had a question or just to chat. It never mattered that she had made the last call.
One way to make sure you never, or rarely, hear from family is to make them feel guilty. If you need help with something, call. If they just can’t provide what you need, accept that they have their reasons. When you do converse with your children, or grandchildren, ask about what they’re doing, what they’re interested in. Don’t use the time to complain about things they haven’t done for you or what you find wrong with them. You can show your concern, but try to keep any criticism positive. If your family doesn’t come by or call, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror.
If things still aren’t to your liking, remember – no one is responsible for your happiness except you. Exactly.