Category: Relationship

Creating a Positive Long Distance Relationship

r20Relationships can be hard, but long-distance relationships bring a new meaning to the idea of what is hard in the relationship. The emotional, psychological, spiritual and physical needs of the relationship must be fulfilled in alternative ways. Long-distance relationships can be successful when they are cultivated on the art of communication and trust between the partners. Prioritizing your goals with your partner and speaking with them and making it known to others how you feel about them can help intensify your relationship.

So, what if you start to notice a breakdown in your relationship or you feel something lacking? There are things you can do, even from a distance to reassure your partner, you are in the relationship for the long haul.

Keep your Skype or phone call dates. Cancelling on your partner might imply to them, they are an afterthought or just an alternative if nothing better is going on. Keep your scheduled Skype/phone calls as you would a date. After all, you are dating your partner right? Make sure you inform your friends or family of your plans to spend the evening talking to your partner and that you are unavailable at that time. If you need to cancel for an emergency, let your partner know so they don’t feel stood up.

Communicate about anything and everything. Be honest about how you are feeling, share what you are passionate about and what activities you are currently involved in. Talk to your partner with video chat, instant messenger, email. Write an old fashioned letter to your lover as a surprise or a romantic gesture. Send your partner little gifts in the mail you think they would enjoy. It is the little things that let them know you are thinking of them during your everyday when you are apart.

Visit each other and never cancel them unless it is an emergency. Refusing to commit to an agreed visit or cancelling on your partner for alternative vacation can cause irrevocable damage. By staying committed to your visits, you will demonstrate to your partner your desire to be with them on an everyday basis in the future. If you no longer feel the relationship is working out or have some fear about visiting, discuss this issue with your partner instead of cancelling on them and lying about the reason. Resolving these issues can help you reevaluate and strengthen your relationship.

Split the costs of visits and discuss finances with your partner. If you live on opposite ends of your country or even the world, finances need to be discussed about visits and preparation for your future. Is your fiancĂ© from a country where they don’t make as much money as you? What are they trying to help pay for in terms of visits? What do you each expect from the relationship in terms of finances in the future? Discussing the financial aspect of your relationship helps to lay a foundation for future expectations, agreements and commitments that you seek in your partner.

Discuss where your relationship is headed and your common goals. This helps each partner to have a sense of what they should be working towards making your relationship a success. This is especially important in intercultural long distance relationships. What are you both seeking in life? What are your expectations? The natural conclusion should be that at some point you will begin to live together and even marry. Who is willing to relocate? Are you both willing to relocate to a mutually agreeable location? Finding a common ground between cultural differences is a key to success in intercultural relationships as it will prevent many arguments in the future.

Long Distance Relationships Can Work But You Can’t Be Lazy

r19Distance means so little when someone means so much.”

That quote should resonate within the mind and hearts of anyone currently involved in a long-distance relationship. Even if you are thinking about getting involved in one, that quote will save you a lot of time, which would have been wasted with doubts and uncertainties.

REPLACING THE MISCONCEPTION

This quote needs to replace the common mentality that “long distance relationships do not work” or even “long distance relationships are doomed from the start.”

With that type of misconception, it is no wonder why so many people seem to avoid this particular type of relationship all together. The problem is that the high number of failed long distance relationships seems to eclipse the growing number of long distance bonds that succeed.

The key to making sure that your long distance relationship succeeds is simple: hard work.

It takes hard work and consistent effort to keep the flame of a long-distance relationship burning brightly.

Yes, it is imperative to make regular visits in order to see each other whenever possible without making the other person feel smothered. However, that does not mean that you are off-the-clock when it comes to working on your relationship in between those face-to-face visits.

EVERYBODY NEEDS REASSURANCE

Your significant other is searching for the same thing that you are – reassurance. Reassurance that you still feel strongly about them. Reassurance that you are just as involved in making the relationship work as they are right now. Reassurance that you are going to do everything you can to make it work – regardless of the odds that claim it’s improbable.

Therefore, you need to put in the time, effort and hard work necessary to provide that reassurance on all levels. Why? Three reasons.

1) Law of Reciprocity: If you do it, chances are that he/she will reciprocate your efforts to provide you with the same level of reassurance.

2) Value, Value, Value: Who doesn’t want to feel valued and appreciated? Putting in the time and effort to make your relationship work – despite the physical distance that separates you two – will add value to your bond and make your significant other feel valued at the same time. At the end of the day, isn’t that what you want?

3) True Love is Cultivated over Time: A long distance relationship shares a major similarity with a short-distance relationship: true love needs time to develop. An unknown person once said that “true love doesn’t mean being inseparable; it means being separated and nothing changes.” This essentially goes back to reassurance – making sure that you and your significant other remain on the same page.

The Pros And Cons Of Long Distance Relationships

r18If you were to ask a few people around you right now about long distance relationships, they will tell you that they are the worst thing anyone could experience. But things are not quite as they say. As many other things, long distance relationships have pros and cons.

As an optimistic, I will start with the pros or long distance relationships:

    • You miss your partner – couples that live together often have one problem. They do not have time to miss each other due to the fact that they barely get alone time. They constantly see each other and sometimes this can drive you nuts. In a long distance relationship you get to miss your partner, his smell, smile, touch and many things.

 

    • You get alone time – despite contrary beliefs, me time is very important. In a relationship and outside of it as well. You get time to relax, do the things you love, go out with friends, stay with your family, study or simply watch a movie or a TV show that you love.

 

  • It’s a constant honeymoon – people who are in a long distance relationship know what I am talking about. While spending time with yourself is important, when you get the chance of meeting your partner is a constant honeymoon. You drink wine together and have long romantic evenings, you go out more for walks in the park. And not to mention that sex is better.

But there are also cons when you are having a long distance relationship:

    • Distance – ironic huh? But distance is your biggest enemy. You see your partner not as often as you would like and that can be frustrating sometimes. Especially when you hear your friends that they have a date on Friday and you know the only thing you have a date with is your laptop. Also you might feel like he can’t be there for you, especially through the dark periods of your relationship, because you only see his face, but he can’t hug you.

 

    • Tech is your best friend – as we do not spend enough time on our phones, a long distance relationship is based mostly on tech. You Skype, Facebook or text all through the day in order to communicate with your partner.

 

  • Things can get heated – if you are a rather jealous person you might get a little out of your mind in a long distance relationship. Mostly because you want to keep tabs on your boyfriend and if he is some miles away, you can’t.

Leaving Home To Be With Someone You Love

r17We have all been in love once or twice in our lives. And we all felt like moving in and living with the other person forever. Some relationships worked out, some have not. Despite that, we all had that rush feeling of leaving home for love. But is it the right thing to do? Are we rational when we take a decision that is tied with love or are we acting on an irrational base? When should anyone move out from their house and with their current boyfriend or girlfriend? What should you consider before moving out?

Here is what you should take into consideration before leaving home for love:

    • Age – before you even consider leaving home, you should ask yourself if you are not too young to do so. 16, 17 and even 18 can be considered too young to move out and be with the person they love. You will actually have to find a way of supporting yourself, financially speaking. No more let me ask for money from my parents or my parents will buy me that. Also, you should consider the age your boyfriend or girlfriend has.

 

    • Education – many girls are willing to sacrifice their education in order to move in with the boys they like, when in fact, no one guarantees you that the relationship will work out. Before you move out, ask yourself if you are eager to throw away all the years you spent studying, all your dreams and your whole future. No one says that you will never find a college or a university where you are moving or that you won’t be able to do school and job together, but questions can save you some trouble.

 

    • Responsibilities – are you ready to move in with your boyfriend, to cook for him, do laundry, clean the house, while going to school and have a job? Do you feel ready for the whole experience or do you simply think it will be amazing and that things will work out?

 

  • Distance – where are you moving? Is it far from your friends and family? If you are unprepared for the whole experience, not only you will hate the whole idea, but when things get tough, you won’t be able to meet your friends and complain.

Are You In A Relationship With Someone Who Is On The Rebound

r16When someone starts a new relationship there is a strong chance that it will be their intention to be with someone who is available. In this case, one is in a position where they are ready to share their life with someone else.

It could then be said that they have the right outlook, and it could mean that they will be on the path to a fulfilling relationship. A new chapter of their life has then begun and one could be grateful that they have met the right one, so to speak.

A Different Experience

However, even though one can start a relationship and hope that the other person is available, it doesn’t mean that they are actually available. In the beginning, one could act as though they are ready to settle down and then as time goes on, this could soon change.

This would then show that while part of them is ready to settle down, another part of them is not on the same page. So although one could go along with the relationship and pretend that everything is fine, they could also walk away.

Unavailable

On the other hand, one could find that although they ready to share their life with someone, the same can’t be said for the person they are with. At first, they may have created the impression that they were ready but then as time has passed, a different side of them has appeared.

Through coming across as though they were ready, it would have been normal for one to believe that they were with the right person. If, on the other hand, they were like this from the start, it would have been a lot easier for them to realise what was taking place.

A Facade

What this shows is that people don’t always reveal their true intentions and while this can be a sign that they are trying to deceive, it might not be this black and white. At times, someone could go out of their way to mislead another, and at other times, it could be something that takes place just outside of their awareness.

So when one comes across as though they are available in the beginning of a relationship, it could be act they have put in place to get their needs met. Alternatively, it could be something that they are not fully aware of.

Pain

When this happens, it could be a sign that they are in a lot of pain and their primary focus is then to feel better. Thus, they are not focused on taking advantage of another human being; they are concerned with their own wellbeing.

Yet if one has crossed paths with someone like this and they are also in pain, it might not be possible for them to feel better if the relationship was to come to an end. Ultimately, one can feel as though they have been used and this can be hard for them to handle.

Time

What could give one a sense of relief is that they have found out and that this is not something that has lasted any longer. This will then allow them to gradually move on from what they have been through.

During this time, one could wonder why they ended up with this person, and why his person ended up with them. Looking into the first question might allow them to change their life; whereas looking into the second question may only allow them to settle their mind down.

The Big Question

If the person one was in a relationship with was in pain, it could be because they have only just left another relationship. The pain they experienced when this came to an end is then still within them.

This will then show that they didn’t take the time to process their pain; they ended up looking for someone to take it away. Based on this, one would have seen as someone who would make them feel better.

An Escape

Through being this way, it would have been possible for them to have a relationship, and this is because they were running away from themselves. They would have been able to offer their mind and their body, but their heart would not have been available.

By replacing one person with another, it would have kept their pain at bay, and this may have been the only need they had. It would then have been necessary for them to come on strong and to create the right impression in order to keep one around.

Looking Back

Having said that, if one was to look back on how the other person behaved in the beginning and throughout their time together, they may start to see that there were signs. But one may have overlooked these due to their need to be with someone.

If the other person came on strong from the start, this would have shown that something wasn’t right. As when it comes to finding the right person, it is generally better to take the time to get to know them.

Thinking Clearly

When this happens, they are not being controlled by their emotions, and this will make it easier for them to make better decisions. Along with this, they may have also spoken about their ex a lot.

One may also have found that although they were attentive at certain times, there may have been other times when they were distant. Their behaviour was then either hot or cold, and this would have been hard to deal with.

Awareness

If one was to look into why they ended up with this person, they may find out that is because they are also unavailable. Although they thought they were ready to have a relationship, this was nothing more than an illusion.

When the Conversation Stops at ‘How Are You?’

r15Fellowship has its barriers within any community of care. But this could be the chief of them. It begins as the very first words are uttered from the mouth of a would-be, could-be, or sadder an actual, friend.

Those words are, ‘How are you / going?’

Don’t get me wrong. Those three or four words can initiate a wonderfully intimate conversation, except for two circumstances where they break intimacy in half.

1. Where the conversation stops at ‘Good, thanks,’ and there’s no more enquiry entered into, apart from ‘Okay, great,’ more as to say, ‘I don’t have the time for you,’ ‘I don’t have the time right now, and generally don’t ever,’ or ‘I wasn’t really interested in any more of a response than “Good, thanks” to begin with,’ there’s a problem. The problem should be obvious. Should the question have been asked to begin with? Should we feign intimacy?

2. Where the conversation stops because, awkwardly, the person being asked doesn’t feel comfortable answering honestly. That’s okay. Nobody should apologise for needing to avoid the question. The answer could be a polite, ‘I’m well, thank you,’ if indeed they were well.

In both of the above situations, there is a way to advance intimacy.

In the first situation, if we’re asking the question, we actually need to be interested in their answer, to the extent we’re willing to ask clarifying questions as we enter into meaningful listening dialogue.

In the second situation, we need to discern any sense of awkwardness and respect the space the other person requires, and not be offended that they can’t commit more than that.

If we ask the question genuinely, we could begin to go deeper than simply the offhand ‘how are you?’ which we tend to experience everywhere in our fast-paced world. The exception is where we don’t feel comfortable, for which the code response could be, ‘I’m well, thank you.’

Men, Cursed to Privilege, Blessed to Respect Women

r10Dating one of my girls, a privilege for any man lucky enough to have not just one daughter, but three, the concept of privilege came up… white male privilege. I talked about a fact we both knew about – me through burgeoning awareness; her through life experience. Male is the safer gender. Female is the at-risk gender… at risk of violence and ridicule, to name just two. Males more commonly transgress females than the other way around. And men learn as boys interacting with girls how women can be, in many cases, allowably mistreated.

Times like this – now I’m in my late forties, and on a date with one of my three princesses – I’m ready to pour the acid over myself for all the silly and insensitive and disrespectful things I’ve said and done against women, usually inadvertently, though still done. Like the time I had sex with a girl and promptly bragged to my mates about it. (Later, I was required to pay some restitution for this sin through a varietal of ‘tribal’ justice.) Sure, I was only eighteen, but the point was I’d been disrespecting women (girls) most of my life by then. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t something I was brought up to do – my parents would’ve frowned on the many ‘boyish’ things I’d done, that most ‘boys’ do. I was probably not the most misogynistic male going round. Just a normal male kid. Just a regular male man. Just a typically misguided human being. That’s the point; my disrespect of women was emblematic of the attitude of society’s men.

***

A ‘thing’ took place. A man with a lot of influence in Media took a stab, with his matey mates, against a woman who happens to be a journalist, and threatened violence, as “banter,” which is another way of saying, “I want to get you back without having to suffer any of the consequences of my actions, and, because I’m using humour, I believe I’ll not only get away with it, my matey mates will think I’m a hero, and everyone will know how funny a bloke I am.” Trouble is the expense of that “banter” on the innocent party involved – and all women, even to every minority. Mocked by a man joking about violence. Mocked by being scapegoated through the vicarious involvement of his matey mates. Several days of deafening silence as they all almost get away with it. Probably many around who did not want to point the finger at Eddie… “He’s Eddie! Eddie can’t be violated.” Retribution issued as a joke; a barb with a fatal sting issued by an inoculated violator. The propagation of the worst male privilege typical of an outdated, The Footy Show, genre. “You [women] want equality… I’ll show you equality, and treat you like I treat my mates, because that’s equality” garbage. Men behaving like men think men are, but not in the same galaxy as men. And don’t know what they’re actually to be apologising for, which makes the issue the size it actually is. They don’t have any idea what they’re doing wrong!

***

So I share with my adult daughter just one thing I’d done to disrespect women. Cringe. But what’s been done has been done. There’s no excuse to go there anymore. It’s time to change, and if we won’t change nothing will change us. My daughter understood. She’d heard of that sort of thing before within her own cohort. She forgave me in an instant, for she knew the condition I, like all men, suffer – we’re more privileged than we often give call to realise.

I’m a man who has three daughters. I put it this way, because as a father of daughters I feel like a man – not a father, but a man – a man who’s not always worthy to be called a man, let alone a father, for some of the things I’ve done – as a privileged male – in my time.

Why Do Some People Only Know Who They Are When They Are In A Relationship

r13While some people can find that they can function whether they are with someone or if they are by themselves, there are others who are not in the same position. In this case, one can find that they struggle when they are not with someone.

On the other side, one could find that they it is not possible for them to function in a relationship. As a result of this, they are likely to do everything they can to avoid getting too close to others.

From The Outside

However, if someone was to come across how these people behave, it would be easy for them to come to the conclusion that one of them is healthier than the other. As one of them is drawn to being with others, they could be seen as the one who is comfortable with intimacy.

Whereas when it comes to the person who does what they can to stop themselves from getting to close to others, they could be seen as the one who avoids intimacy. This would show that they have made a surface level assessment and not looked into the other factors that are at play.

Black And White

What this outlook would reflect is the belief that the people who have relationships are comfortable with intimacy and the people who don’t are not. Clearly, if one doesn’t have them there is a strong chance that they have a problem with it.

Yet even if one does have relationships with others, it doesn’t mean that they are comfortable with intimacy. For example, one can be with someone and they may only share their mind and body.

Two Sides

One can then come to believe that they are in a relationship and the people they know can also form the same outlook. If the people around them had this outlook, it could be a sign that they are also experiencing life in the same way.

Thus, through having a surface level relationship themselves, it is not possible for them to recognise when another person experiences life in the same way. Ultimately, this is what is normal and so this is to be expected.

Loss

When one does avoid relationships, it is can be because this is the only way for them to maintain their sense of self. If they get too close to others, they are likely to end up feeling overwhelmed.

During this time, one can feel as though their very survival is under threat, and so this is naturally going to cause them to fear intimacy. It would be easy to down play this experience and to say that one should simply embrace their fear, but this would overlook how painful this can be.

Annihilation

During the time when one is close to another, they can feel as though their life is about to come to an end. Their ability to think will then be offline and their reptile brain will take over.

It is then not going to be possible for them to share their life with another person; the only thing they will be concerned about is protecting themselves. This can show that their younger years were a time when they were neglected and/or abused.

Vulnerable

Through being treated in this way, it wouldn’t have been possible for them to develop boundaries, and this means that their sense of self would have remained undeveloped. So through feeling exposed as a result of what took place during these early years, it stops them from being able to fulfil the rest of their needs.

When someone can’t understand why they would behave in this way, it can be due to the fact that their mind perceives intimacy in another way. This then allows them to feel comfortable with intimacy, and there is no reason for them to experience fear.

The Other Experience

Now, when one is unable to function when they are not in a relationship, it is going to show that they generally don’t feel overwhelmed around others. This then allows them to get close to others without feeling uncomfortable.

However, this doesn’t mean that one is able to maintain their sense of self around another person, as they could end up merging with them. Or if this doesn’t take place, one could end up playing a role.

False-Self

Either way, it is going to be a challenge for them to express their true-self, and as they can’t do this, it could be said that it won’t be possible for them to experience intimacy. The part of them that will allow enable them to feel close to the other person will be in hiding.

The people they end up with are also likely to be in a similar position, and this means they are also going to be wearing a mask, so to speak. Yet the reason why one would put up with these kinds of relationships is likely to be due to their fear of being abandoned.

Undeveloped

As they haven’t developed a sense of self, they need to be with someone in order to feel like a whole human being. Another way of looking at this would be to say that one is not an interdependent human being; they are a dependent human being.

What this is likely to show is that although one looks like an adult, they still feel the same as they did when they were a child. Through feeling this way, it is going to be normal for them to look for another adult make them feel better.

Early Years

In the beginning of their life, they may have had a caregiver who neglected them, and this would have stopped them from getting the attunement that they needed to develop a sense of self. The years have then passed, but the trauma of the past has stayed within them.

Awareness

If one can relate to this and they want to move forward, it will be important for them to reach out for support. This is something that can be provided by a therapist and/or a support group.

How to Show Love

r12Why don’t you turn the tide? Instead of expecting to receive something, be the first one to give. Nothing can compare to the feeling of joy and contentment once you see a person brimming with happiness after he or she receives your gift.

Humans nowadays are too attached to material possessions that they eventually forget to see the real beauty of life. The riches we acquired here on earth are something we cannot bring with us when we die. It is the laughter, the memories we have with each other that makes our existence worthwhile. It is quite saddening that we put too much weight on things that don’t even matter.

We fail to realize the value of things that money can’t buy.

Give to those people that which you wish to receive. Don’t wait for them to give you something before you can actually show them your love. The Law of Cause and Effect tells us that anything that you send out into the universe will come back to you. You may not know it but you will soon get back the effort that you put out.

Once you give, you get.

If you want to receive love, you have to give love. You can’t just continue to take and take. Your selfishness will get you nowhere. Plant great things and you shall harvest what you deserve. It’s a cycle. One scenario is when you start being mean towards a person and depending on the gravity of your action, pretty soon that person will also be quite rude to you. If we only learn to start the cycle with kindness, for sure we would’ve achieved world peace by now.

Start with goodness.

Nothing goes wrong when you start doing something with goodness. If your loved one can’t give you flowers on Valentine’s Day, be the one to give. Initiate the loving gesture. Besides, the web makes it so much easier for us to grab alluring bouquets through online flowers. Lower down your ego, being the first one to give doesn’t make you the lesser person.

Be true and be you.

Do not be a hypocrite and create an illusion that you can afford to give something that you know is beyond your means. You will only slowly destroy yourself in the process. You can never give something that you don’t have. Learn to settle with what you are and give what you can. Be honest with yourself. A gift no matter how big or small will be appreciated as long as it genuinely came from you – the real you.

Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination

r111I truly believe that life is a journey and not a destination. The goal in life is not to rush to the finish line, but to enjoy every step of the journey as much as possible along the way. Nothing makes this sentiment more clear than when you lose a loved one. I know this because I just loss one of my favorite uncles who always seemed to live life out loud. He was so full of life and laughter. You always knew when he walked into the room because he had such a grand presence. Ironically, he was also the one in the family who assumed the role of notifying family members when there were grave illnesses and deaths of other family members and longtime friends. Sometimes he would call to announce deaths of others who had such a distant and/or non-existent relationship with you that you would have to ask, “Who”? Then he would go through the lineage year by year; person by person, until you finally said, “Oh yeah, I remember – that is so sad to hear of their passing”. Sometimes what I would really be thinking is, “Um, I really have no idea who you are talking about”. But, in any case, I would express my condolences all the same.

Although my uncle was a very religious man, he seemed in many ways to be intrigued by death. I am not sure if this was based on the time he spent in the military, or what. But, anyone over 50 was considered old by his standards and was subject to the grim reaper knocking at their door at any moment. Anyone older than that just needed to be thankful as they were simply living on borrowed time; according to my uncle’s ideology, anyway. By the way, I loved my uncle dearly yet I have never shared his preoccupation with death or his rigid views on the relationship between age and death. It’s a good thing he was always up for a good debate. My viewpoint on the correlation between age and death, I would tell him, was predicated on the fact that we all know of little ones who have had very short lives here on earth as well as knowing elders who have lived well beyond a century! My uncle and I even debated this very subject during the funeral of his dad, my grandad, who lived to be over 90 years of age. And his mother, my great-grandmother, I reminded my uncle, was over 100 years old when she passed.

My uncle would humor me by listening to my side of the debate, but in all the years I have known him, he has never changed his opinion. Even though I did not agree with him on many things such as this, I have always had respect for people who have strong opinions and are not afraid to voice them; even if it may not be a mainstream point of view. That was one of the many things I loved about my uncle. He had many opinions that were clearly not mainstream. If you knew him; you would always know where he stood on issues. I do, however, believe that he and I both agreed on at least one point concerning life which is that our time here on earth is very precious. That is why it is so important to live life to the fullest and enjoy the journey each and every day. I remember the last time I saw my uncle. It was an invaluable experience that I would not trade for any monetary or material value.

Speaking of such, on the day that I went to see my uncle in the hospital, I actually had a prior engagement planned. My friend and I had already made plans to hop on the train and do a day trip to one of the outlet malls to shop for handbags. We had been talking about this day trip for months and finally made arrangements to go. At the very last moment, in the midst of planning the last minor details for the trip, I received a phone call from my mom who informed me that my uncle, her brother, was in serious condition in the hospital. I could hear the fear in my mom’s voice which confirmed to me that not going to the hospital to visit my uncle that day was simply not an option.

I am sure my friend could not believe that I was cancelling our shopping trip. We both knew we were foregoing what most likely would have been a blast because when she and I get together, we tell jokes, poke fun at each other, and constantly laugh about the minutest things. Everyone should have a friend like this. Every now and then, we have serious conversations. But for the most part, she and I just seem to find humor in many different situations. It’s like being friends with Jay Leno or Eddie Murphy – she’s that funny, but without the cursing! Once we were out having lunch during the work week and an elderly gentleman came over to our table after he finished lunch and playing chess with his friend. Obviously retired, he said he and his buddy have been playing chess for years. He said he just had to come over to our table before he left and comment about how he got such a kick out of listening to our non-stop chatter and laughter. That’s the kind of fun my friend and I always have whenever we get together – the laughter is contagious!.

However, I knew going to visit my uncle was going to be my priority that day of our trip. When I got to the hospital and saw my uncle, the look of surprise and sheer joy that came over his face when he saw my mom and I was priceless. I will never forget the way he threw his head back in laughter just for the simple fact that he was happy to see us. My uncle has always had such a strong presence and a bigger than life personality. Seeing a glimpse of that as he lay in his hospital bed was a memory that I will cherish forever. On the flip side, for just one brief moment, I looked at him in that hospital bed and for the first time I felt his vulnerability. I saw for one fleeting instant a sign from him that he had accepted the fact that he was seriously ill. I tried to play down his comment to me when I leaned down to kiss him on the forehead and asked him how he was doing. He responded, “Oh, your uncle is just too old”. Like I said before, my uncle has talked about aging ever since I can remember. But, it was the way he said it that time which made it seem like he was succumbing to his illness. I tried to dismiss what he said – but deep down, I felt he really meant it. My uncle has always been the strong, prayerful warrior who would visit the sick and shut in and give them hope. Now, as he laid in that hospital bed – even with his bible laying across his chest and reading glasses nearby, I felt he was now that person who was in need of prayer and encouragement.

After we greeted each other, I immediately poured my uncle an obligatory glass of ice water. Not just water, it had to be ice water. This gesture was my “job” which my uncle had assigned to me when I was a little girl. This tradition was part joke which we always laughed about each time we saw each other and it was also part of what sealed our connection as uncle and niece. I took my “job” of getting him a glass of ice water very seriously. I am pretty sure there were times he wasn’t even thirsty, but it was our tradition and he would always drink the obligatory glass of ice water no matter what. So after the traditional pouring and drinking of the ice water, all the childhood stories and reminiscing began between him and my mom. This was one of their traditions each time they got together. They proceeded in telling the same funny childhood stories about growing up in the country which they said they would not have traded for anything in the world.

My mom and uncle laughed and then laughed some more as they retold the “milk-‘n-bread” AKA the “milkybread” story which I may have heard over a dozen times (or two) over the years. But it has always been just as funny each time I hear them tell the story of how all their siblings would gather around a pan of fresh out of the oven cornbread doused with buttermilk. They all readied themselves with their spoons in hand waiting to dive into the delicious feast; each one vying for their favorite section of the bread pan. My uncle, being one of the oldest and biggest, always got his favorite section as well as his fair share of the pan of bread. My mom, the ultimate negotiator/diplomat, always seemed to have gotten her favorite corner piece, as well. I almost feel like I was there with them, back in time, as I watched my mom and uncle’s eyes light up as they relived their “milkybread” story through tears of joy and laughter. Of course, they also had to tell the story of when my mom was a majorette and my uncle was the drummer in their school band. As the story goes, they would ride back home on the school bus. My uncle, being the prankster that he was even back then, hid behind one of the seats in the back of the bus. He did not resurface until after he heard his cue which must have been music to his ears listening to my mom shouting at the top of her lungs to the bus driver in sheer panic to, “Stop the bus, my brother is missing!” Only then would my uncle pop up from hiding after hearing her shrilled command to the bus driver. They laughed and laughed as if it had just happened yesterday. The story-telling would not be complete without them re-telling the story of the snakes. They talked about swimming down by the creek near their house and then noticing there were snakes swimming in the creek with them. Listen, it does not matter that the size of the snakes gets bigger and bigger each time the story is retold. The point is sharing in the joy between my mom and uncle as they laugh while telling their childhood stories. To this day, however, because of the snake story I cannot put on a pair of boots without first smashing down the entire bottom half and shaking it out rigorously, just in case a snake is hiding in there.

Well, the story-telling has ended and I cannot believe that my uncle is gone now. I try to find comfort in remembering that he is now in a much better place; even better than his childhood memories that brought him so much happiness. He is in a familiar place that he prepared himself for his whole life to spend into eternity. Fortunately, his boisterous laughter and memories will live on forever in my heart and in the hearts of everyone who was lucky enough to have known him. I am so glad that I made the choice to go with my mom to visit my uncle that day in the hospital. Although I had no idea that would be the last time I would see my uncle, the memory of his laughter and storytelling are forever embedded in my memory.

Oh, by the way, and on a lighter note – my friend ended up going shopping at the outlet without me that day. She sent a text that evening and asked me how my uncle was doing. At the time, he was actually doing better which I explained to her. Shortly thereafter he had even been released from the hospital. She said she was happy to hear that he was doing well. After all the pleasantries and well wishes were extended, she then texted me a picture of the brand new Kate Spade briefcase that she bought during the shopping trip. You know the briefcase, the one I had my eye on for months! She’s got a lot of explaining to do. She didn’t stop there. About a week later, we were in a joint meeting at work and she had the nerve to place the huge, and admittedly gorgeous, briefcase right in the middle of the table across from me. I think she was trying to be cute – or spiteful; take your pick. I could literally smell the new leather aroma from across the table! Of course, no one else in the meeting knew she was taunting me, so I just had to chuckle to myself and keep it movin’.