Sixty Days of Gratitude #1: My Parents

Leo & Elisabeth Notenboom

For the next 60 days I’m putting a little bit of structure around my daily writing exercise. Each day will be about something for which I’m grateful. Some may be trivial, while others (like today’s) more significant, but all will be honest and from the heart. I live a fortunate life, and it’s good to reflect on that from time to time.

Why sixty days? I’ll reveal that … in sixty days. πŸ™‚

β™₯

It’s only logical that I start with my parents. After all, they “started” me. πŸ™‚

I think one of the most striking conclusions that I’ve come to over the years is just how lucky I was to have the parents I had.

They weren’t perfect, and I’m certainly not one to over romanticize things, but in retrospect I had it pretty damned good. As I hear the stories of others and what their early years were like, or what kind of a relationship they had with their parents — if they had one at all — and that same conclusion keeps getting driven home again and again: Pretty. Damn. Good.

Two parents who loved me, and I them. Parents who wanted the best for me. Parents who would do whatever it was they could do make my future a bright one.

Not to mention a healthy dose of healthy genes from both sides.

My dad was about the value of hard work and doing your best no matter your role. I vividly remember him telling me on more than one occasion that he really didn’t care what I did, as long as I was the best I could be at it.Β He was also where I learned of devotion. His relationship with my mother was — interesting — apparently rockier than I’d realized at times — and yet he was clearly and obviously devoted to her.

If my dad was a bit of a dreamer, my mother was the pragmatic one. It’s a skill that served her well, I think, and she handed it down to me – generically or by example, it doesn’t matter. She was the one that took on extra work to ensure that I would be able to afford to go to college. Indeed, she was the one that wanted me to go to college in the first place — my dad would have probably been more content with something more familiar like a trade.

They both kind of lost it when I got engaged. How much of it was really “she’s not Catholic,” versus “losing” their only child to marriage, is unclear. What I remain eternally grateful to them both for is that when it was clear that it was happening — no amount of talk or persuasion would change our minds — they embraced it. Quite literally embracing Kathy and making her feel a close part of our family for the many years that would follow. She became the daughter they never had. My respect and love for them grew immensely as a result.

Like myself, my parents were stubborn and independent. Surviving World War II probably had something to do with it. I’m sure that leaving their native country to go live on another continent where people spoke a different language further encouraged it. That, too, has served us all well — at least until the end.

Mom & Dad circa 1990's

Mom & Dad circa 1990’s

Ultimately it was my mother’s stubbornness that made it impossible for her to seek out help caring for my father as his dementia set in. It was my father’s stubbornness that caused her many, many sleepless nights as a result.

Like anyone who’s grown into adulthood it’s hard not to have a lot of “I wish I’d have…” items. We weren’t a particularly physical family, but I kind of wish I’d hugged more. We weren’t verbally demonstrative, but I kind of wish I’d said “I love you” more. The pragmatist in me knows that wasn’t part of the plan, and probably would have weirded them out anyway — but they could have gotten used to it. Besides, I’m certain that they knew.

I do wish that I’d simply appreciated them more. They gave me a life for which I am eternally grateful.

 

Comments

  1. Andrew WeInberger says:

    Your piece is very touching, insightful, kind, inspiring and revealing about you, also. It also makes me want to know more about your family.

    My parents beliefs and child-rearing were similar in many respects.

    Thank you.

    Andy W.

  2. A very nice tribute to your Parents, Leo. All of us should stop, think, and do this more… and seek to continue the good that they placed in us.

    Thank You,
    Jim

  3. A heartwarming and heartfelt tribute to your parents.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories of your years with your parents.
    Good luck and love to see the Sixty Days of Gratitude to the 60th day πŸ™‚

    Wishing you continued success,
    Joyce v G

  4. I enjoyed gratitude #1 and found many parallels in my own relationship with my parents. They also married in 1947 so we are probably around the same age. I think that the “Huggy” and “I love you” fifty times a day generation came later. But back in the day some things just didn’t need saying. You are absolutely right, they “knew”, just like you did, and never forget, that their greatest pleasure and fulfillment in life was watching their boy grow into manhood. ‘Cos that’s the way it was.
    Thank you and Bless you,
    Alan

  5. Kathleen says:

    Just. Totally. Beautiful.

    Thank you,
    Kathleen