On Thanksgiving, I shuttled between my in-laws’ large gathering and the intimate dinner at my aunt’s house. In doing so, I understood one of the most important reasons that my wife and I have thus far refused to leave for the suburbs.
Our parents live in the city’s Northwest section, as do we. That close proximity allows us to stay connected to them throughout the year, and not just on holidays. There are calls and visits, conversations and dinners. There are real relationships that are nurtured and fed long before the holidays arrive.
I understand that such closeness isn’t for everyone. There’s the potential for meddling, misunderstandings and mayhem. But it’s been a blessing for us.
Perhaps because of everything our parents have seen and experienced in raising their own children, they understand that we aren’t perfect parents, but that we’re perfectly willing to try. Rather than trying to run our lives, our parents offer a gentle nudge, a word of encouragement and real tangible help.
We help them as well, and it’s easier to do so because we all live in Philadelphia. There is, of course, another major benefit. It’s one we hope we never need. Should there ever be an emergency that requires our presence, we can get to our parents in minutes.
With age comes clarity … and creaky joints
Twelve years ago, when I got married, that close proximity wasn’t as important to me as it is now. But as I’ve gotten older and realized how unforgiving age can be, I’ve come to be thankful for the ability to be close to my parents.
Perhaps being in my forties has chastened me. There’s nothing quite like looking up from a computer screen and having to wait for one’s eyes to adjust. Nor is there anything equivalent to getting up in the morning and being serenaded by the sounds of creaking joints.
If I can feel my body betraying me as I approach the tender age of 45, I can only imagine what awaits me 20, 30, or even 40 years from now. It’s my hope that medicine will have advanced to the point of curing age-related maladies by then.
In the meantime, I’m thankful to be in the city, close to my parents, because now that I’m a parent myself, I often wonder how they did it.
That’s why I was grateful on Thanksgiving. I got to sit and hear them tell stories about raising us. They talked about the hard times and the laughter, the joy and the sacrifice.
They talked about my grandfather and the way he cared for them.
My grandmother talked about her relationship with my great-grandmother.
They talked about family. We laughed ’til we cried. We sat and enjoyed each other’s company.
For me, though, it wasn’t the fact that we were sitting together and sharing as a family. It was the fact that we do so quite often.
I’m grateful that we live as Philadelphians have done for generations: In close proximity to family, in a place with centuries of history, and at a time when we need each other most. I could never find such treasures in a suburb, and in truth, I wouldn’t even try.