It used to be so annoying when I’d come home from school complaining about the usual suspects (pop quizzes, mean teachers, too much homework, recesses that were too short) and my mother would dutifully reply;
“Remember honey, the glass is either half empty or half full.”
I would immediately head to my room and mimic her behind her back, “Ooh, the glass is empty, the glass is full.”
It went on this way for many years and despite all her efforts to alter my cranky demeanor I mimicked her mercilessly. The message sounded stupid and trite and made no sense. A glass with liquid is a glass with liquid. Who needed to measure the volume?
When I moved onto adulthood something clicked.
It began with my Dad’s cancer diagnosis and his 7-month hospitalization. Every day on my way to visit him I would inevitably get stuck in the morning commuter rush hour. I would become furious that I was idling miserably on some road when I could be cozied up somewhere with my favorite coffee brew.
Then I would be issued my visitor’s pass and head up to room 1511.
My Dad made certain that every morning he was showered and shaved (by his favorite nurse) and loaded with Old Spice. To this day his scent remains in my soul.
Our morning ritual always began with Eskimo kisses (a throw-back to our early years) followed by his question;
“So where are we going to go today?”
This was my Dad’s way of looking at that proverbial glass as half-full. Although he was confined to a hospital bed he found a way to be grateful and joyous and appreciative of the littlest of things. He knew that unlike most of the patients around him he still had his faculties and ability to speak and hug and be loved and enjoy a good steak sandwich or pastrami on rye (snuck in by me as often as I could). His question about where we were going didn’t refer to a specific location (in the hospital) but rather of our shared memories. Each morning we would ‘go’ to a different place together and relive every moment of that time we had with each other.
The pier when I was 6 and caught my very 1st fish and then cried when my Dad told me the fish could not come home and live in my goldfish bowl.
The day we layed down on the hammock and it fell from the trees while we climbed aboard and I went to the hospital with a sprained wrist.
The first tomato we picked from the garden we planted in the soil that everyone said would not even produce a weed.
The 27 pennies we found laying outside our motel room in Key West Florida on Christmas Day which we used to buy penny candy at the corner store.
The seashell we found at the beach that made the sound of a perfect wave.
The 500 piece jigsaw puzzle that we took forever to figure out and then baby brother ‘accidentally’ took it apart.
We went somewhere together everyday for 7 months without ever leaving my Dad’s hospital room. We laughed hard and took very little notice of my Dad’s true circumstances. He made it easy. Not once did I ever hear him complain or lament his fate. He actually thought of himself as lucky.
I stopped complaining about being stuck in traffic. I realized that every person on that 15th floor would give everything they owned to be healthy enough just to be driving a car. Getting stuck in traffic meant that they were well enough to have a destination.
The last place my Dad and I ever ‘went’ together was to our father-daughter dance at my wedding.
He told me I looked like a Princess.
I stepped on his foot.
He tripped ever so slightly on my dress.
He escorted me back to my seat and I said ‘good-bye’.
I had so many more places I wanted to ‘go’ with my Dad. But I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have shared all those times with him.
My glass is half-full.