I got my daily chain mail this morning. I get this kind of stuff all the time, I'm sure you do too. The chain letters that will bring you love, health and long life as long as you "send it on to 10 of your friends in the next 10 minutes or you'll be doomed to email hell." (On a side note; are you really my friend if you're willing to risk dooming me to email hell over a chain mail? Or are you just concerned about your own well being? I digress...) I normally delete them after I read them (fight the madness, stop the spam!). But I got one today that was worth mentioning (link here if you want to read it.) It reminded me of a friend I knew many years ago. And he had a theory about living life that I seem to be having trouble with as of late. The hectic pace I’ve been under this last month has made it hard to “see the forest for the trees” so to speak. So when reading this story I remembered this friend and his lesson and I thought it would be good to share with you.
This friend, “Tim” was Chinese (there’s a reason I’m mentioning this, stick with me here for a minute). He grew up in the Midwest; one of four boys. They owned the town’s Chinese restaurant (of course they did). He used to joke that every town in America is required one Chinese family to run the one Chinese restaurant in each town. I always check when I travel now, and I think he might be right. Although, maybe not Tuna, I’ll have to ask Antique Mommy if Tuna has a Chinese restaurant. Tim’s Grandparents lived in San Francisco. I’m not sure how it all came to be exactly, but by the time I met him he was living in SF with his Grandmother; taking care of her basically. I would venture to guess that they were probably taking care of each other. He never really talked about his Grandmother or the fact that he lived with her. I remember our little group of friends had known each other for quite some time before we became aware of the fact that he drove down to the South Bay for work because he lived up there. And that he lived up there because he lived with his Grandmother in her house. I believe he didn't mention it, because it was just something he did. He didn’t question it or complain about it, he just did it. I found out later that he was the one who came to live with her because he was the most mobile of the four brothers at the time. (Just out of college, no wife/girlfriend or kids to relocate). I think he never complained because in the Chinese culture (as well as many others) the older family members are revered and honored. When Grandma was alone and it became apparent someone needed to be keeping an eye on her to some degree the family figured out who was in the best position to go and then that person went. They didn’t put her in a “home” they moved in with her so she could finish her days in her own home. I know that’s not realistic for everyone, but it says a lot about their family and their commitment to each other. If he resented it I never knew. I don’t think he did and this theory of his is why:
Tim used to say that he thought us we had the whole birthday cake and candle thing backwards. That at the time of your first birthday they should figure out your expected life span and put that many candles on your cake. This means on your first birthday they start with say 75 candles. Every year they take a candle off. By the time you’re getting short of breath you have fewer candles to blow out. Once you’ve “cleared your cake” then everyday is an extra gift and people who fall in that category should get special treatment. He felt that “clear cake people” should get a free ride: free rent, no taxes, free transportation, free meals, free health care, etc…You’ve more than paid your dues to society, now it’s our turn to take care of you. This was told to us during Happy Hour one night and after that we would often toast to the “Clear Cake People”. I think this little story speaks volumes of how he felt about his Grandmother.
In the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, take a few minutes to take a deep breath and relax and think about why you’re rushing about; to have fun right? Don’t forget to have fun. Don't resent that dinner party you're going to because you really should be wrapping. It's really about being with people, and enjoying the time together. And when you say grace or propose a toast on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day make sure to toast the “clear cake people” and enjoy the candles you have left on your cake.