Learning Gratitude

Words said in anger wrapped with spite can be cruel and feel like a slap across the face. But what of words never said? I think they can be just as hurtful. When I was growing up my parents believed that if they acknowledged our accomplishments then we would become soft and not develop into hard-working adults. Looking back on those years, I can tell you that theory doesn’t hold much water. With vivid feelings of longing I recall striving to hear the words from my parents that would let me know they thought I was doing well. When the words didn’t come a hole began to creep inside my self-confidence. In the end I went through most of my life thinking I was sub par, nothing special. In high school I was a member of the first girl’s basketball team. Mom came to one game. I was involved in the school plays, Dad never showed. I pulled the float in our homecoming parade. Not even a word of advice from them as to how I should do it.
I know my parent’s loved me, I’m sure they even told me that. My parents demonstrated their love with providing for us even when times were difficult. They always managed to bring the family an amazing Christmas. Birthdays we were singled out for the day and were allowed to choose the dinner menu and what kind of cake we wanted. I know these actions were symbols of their love. Yet, just once, I wanted to hear the words that would let me know they thought I was amazing and they were grateful I was their child. The only time I remember my mother saying I love you and me, feeling she actually meant it was a few months before she passed away from dementia. She looked me directly in the eye and said “I love you, Rosemary” and then smiled. It was a rare moment of cognizance. Tears still fill my eyes when I recall that snapshot of time that I had waited for most of my life.
I don’t normally make New Year’s resolutions. But, this year I intend to make an exception. I have been traveling down the road of change in my life; the 55 year mark has made me stop and evaluate. With those evaluations I have come to some conclusions. I have decided that I will tell my loved ones just that, I love you. But, I also intend to demonstrate that love with gratitude for their actions and for just being who they are. I’ve been wondering, do I thank my husband enough or like my parents let him go with the assumption gratitude is there? I am going to work on changing that. I have two adult daughters and it is obvious they do not need me on a daily basis anymore. Still, I think, more thank you’s need to come their way. I’ll start with sending notes of gratitude; perhaps for taking time out of their day to spend it with me, perhaps for coming over for dinner, maybe sharing a laugh. I want to emphasize that the small gestures are just as important as the large and any gesture that brings a bright spot deserves recognition. And so, I have started. It isn’t easy. Sometimes it can be days later that I remember, wait that was a special moment and I need to be thankful for that. Other times I slide too easily into taking my husband for granted. I have to remind myself that words are powerful and when used to express gratitude or love can be a gift we give to others.