Checking My Balance

checkbookMy father taught me how to manage my money.  For this, I am grateful.  I’m the first to admit, I probably could have paid more attention to the lessons once we got past (1) How to Balance Your Checking Account Using a Pencil and the Grid on the Back of the Statement and (2) The Non-Negotiable Task of Paying Off Your Credit Card Bill Monthly.  Though I may not have turned out to be a finance whiz, at least Dad helped me nail down a few basic prerequisites for responsible money management.

Beyond tracking my checkbook balance, my dad has taught me a lot of useful things through the years.  Like every father, he has offered lots of advice — in many cases, even good advice.  (I’d like to meet the parent who has always given perfect advice to their child – if you have their number, could you send it to me, please?)

Mostly, I’m thankful to my dad – and my mom too – for teaching me how to take care of myself, and for passing on their values, combined and individual, particularly the ones I’ve assimilated into my own.

From both parents, I learned to value the honoring of family heritage and ties. My father’s mother, my Nana, was in close contact with her extended family for her whole life, through letters, phone calls and visits – this was how immigrant families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did things (and I imagine, still do).  They lived close together to start, and stayed in contact with each other when they spread out. Though nowhere as dedicated a correspondent as my Nana was, my dad has stayed in touch with his extended family too. My own relationships with first and second cousins on both sides of my family, many of whom I also consider friends, are a testament to this value that my parents role modeled for me.

On the subject of family ties, I returned last week from the Southern California desert, where I was celebrating Dad’s 80th birthday with him.  My present to him was to show up for 48 hours.  Granted, there was a bit more to it than that (including the presentation of a gorgeous, original “plein air” acrylic-on-birch painting, created by my partner, representing the beach in Ventura where our family vacation home was), but it’s fair to say that my main gift was showing up.

Showing up for someone else is one of the values that I treasure most in myself and in my friends. It’s another value that comes from my parents.  They have always shown up for me when I’ve needed them to, and that’s meant the world to me.  It’s meant that I’ve always felt I have a home to go to, that as long as they’re able, they’ll help me when I ask them for help. They’ve been with me to celebrate countless milestone occasions in my life. They’re there to listen to me when I need an ear.

The older I get, the more I appreciate how precious is the gift of showing up, the offering of presence. The effort to be there for another, whether simple or complex in planning and execution, whether the other is family, friend, or colleague, is meaningful beyond words. It not only means a lot to me when someone shows up for me — I also want to be the person who shows up.

Sometimes showing up means only that – appearing in physical guise to either see, or be seen, by others.   In its most literal form, the act of showing up can be more about yourself than another (which, don’t get me wrong, isn’t always a bad thing!).

Sometimes, though, being present – looking someone in the eye when they’re speaking, listening with open ears (and, when it feels good, an open heart), being witness to another person’s journey – this kind of showing up can be a true gift, both to the person who is receiving that presence, and to the person who is doing the looking, the opening, the witnessing.  You know how it goes, that whole giving and receiving routine… there’s something to it, right?

When it came to my dad’s party, buying an airplane ticket and flying down the coast was virtually effortless.  So was being present for the two days I was there.  I had a wonderful time taking my dad out for a deli lunch after he picked me up from the airport, meeting the friends who joined in for the dinner party that was planned to perfection by Dad’s generous and thoughtful wife of almost 21 years, taking pictures at the celebration, hearing from people I had just met about what a sweet guy my dad is.

What’s more, I had a blast secretly coordinating with my brother, who flew across the country after a lunch meeting in New York and walked into the restaurant to surprise my dad, just as I was giving my toast “to family” and the dessert plates were being cleared.  I’m pretty sure that seeing my brother walk up to him, arms extended, was the best gift anyone could have given my (and I think I can say this now!) old man.

It’s our values that keep us in balance – a balance that, in my eyes, is worth keeping a check on.  Thanks, Dad, for giving me a pretty good batch of values to work with. Happy Birthday.  And Go, Seahawks!

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6 thoughts on “Checking My Balance

  1. Loved it, Hilary! Gave me goosebumps! Loved the way you tied it all together at the end and generously gave your bro’s gift top billing. Reminded me of my own family and how blessed I am. Beautifull photo of the three of you! xo

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