My sister Sissy and I were speaking on the phone this morning, and she said something about Dad that made me stop and think. She remarked on how grateful he was.
That’s right: he was always grateful. He lived his whole life with an attitude of gratitude.
He was brought up on a farm during the Great Depression; and he was grateful.
He was married to our mother, Mary, who was pretty far from normal; and he was grateful.
He was married to our stepmother, Beatrice, also far from normal; and he was grateful.
He had a difficult condition called Polycystic Kidney Disease; and he was grateful that it was a kidney disease of late middle-life.
We have the best kidney disease one can have.
he would say, and he was grateful for the wonderful doctors and nurses who took care of him.
As my sister reminded me this morning, Dad always was grateful. He said “Thank you,” whenever you did anything for him. When Sissy took him for a ride in her car, he said:
Thank you so much for the ride.
Whenever anyone picked him up from his dialysis treatments, he said:
Thank you so much for picking me up.
Later in life when he developed dementia and proceeded to get up at 3AM to start shaving and getting ready for work, he always said “Thank you,” when I knocked on the bathroom door and said:
Dad, it’s three o’clock. Why don’t you go back to bed?
My mother, on the other hand, hardly ever was grateful. She spent a good deal of her time re-counting how Aunt Opal had mistreated her as a child and how her sister (Aunt Marty) had tried to get her in trouble with the ice cream cone. She told and re-told her troubles until you wanted to say:
Didn’t anything good ever happen to you?
but you were afraid the answer would be “no.” Unlike Dad, she didn’t consider her family a blessing and she certainly wasn’t grateful for her two daughters. She hardly ever said thank you for anything. In fact, she felt that she was owed whatever we did for her.
Our stepmother Beatrice might be able to be thankful for a minute, but not much longer. She and I were once shopping and she bought me a new purse. While she was speaking to her “five minute friend,” she told the clerk:
My daughter stayed with her dad for three summers. Even if I bought her something every day, I couldn’t re-pay her.
That was a very nice sentiment and even though it was expressed to a store clerk and not to me, I still appreciated it. The problem was she had no carry-through.
My stepmother quickly forgot all about what I had done. One night when she and I were out eating, she said:
No one in this family has ever done anything for me.
I mentioned my sister Sissy taking her on trips and she said that was a long time ago. I mentioned me staying with Dad for three summers and she said:
That wasn’t for me.
I mentioned my sister Lindy taking her shopping for a wheelchair and walker, and she said:
That was nothing.
No matter what we did, it was never enough for Mother and Stepmother and always more than enough for Dad. Which person do you want to emulate? Have an attitude of gratitude.