Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – November 21, 2004
Talking With Eric
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – November 21, 2004 – Dorothy, my-sister-in-law has flown the coop for two weeks “en vacance” in Paris – lucky lady. In her absence, Eric and I inevitably get together a couple of times for dinner. He always asks – I always accept – he always cooks. He prepares a wonderful meal – I eat in style and come home nourished and sleepy.
I never invite – I never cook – I don’t even order a pizza. In short, I’m a very bad sister. It has been every thus. Eric hates to eat alone and I’m really being quite a supportive, understanding sibling. That being acknowledged I feel a bit better, somewhat less guilty. Perhaps this time I’ll invite him over for a cuppa soup and a cracker. I rather doubt it – but maybe.
We inevitably end up talking about politics, current world events, work, people and our past, present and future. I had recently seen a wonderful quote from Shakespeare – “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child”. I couldn’t remember the exact wording last night, but I mentioned it and we ended up chatting about our parents – Bob (Charlie) and Mary, growing up in a small town and how different our lives would be if we’d never left. Eric mentioned that he wakes up in the morning and is amazed that he lives in downtown Toronto, has a career he thoroughly enjoys (professor of economics), a sailboat, a great home, a good marriage and a wonderful life.
I know what he means. I have an exceptional life. For all my whining, moaning, twitching and complaining – I too know that I am truly blessed. We talked about how unlike one another our parents were, but how we each benefited from their combined wisdom. We are where we are in life due to Mary bestowing upon us an understanding of the incredible value of education and learning. Were it not for Mary, Eric might still be working for Bell Canada (probably as a supervisor of some sort) and I would undoubtedly have married someone local and raised a couple of kids.
There is no disgrace in either of these outcomes – but we know we’ve enjoyed a far greater view of the world, and consequently ourselves, because we left small town Ontario and moved to the city. Charlie knew and understood hard work, honesty and decency. Eric and I have turned out well. We’re both feisty and opinionated, but we are decent people. Neither of us is a quitter. We’re both optimistic in our pessimistic fashion, and now that we’ve matured a little, we both truly appreciate our heritage.
As I sat beside the fireplace in Eric’s living room – I watched the flames weaving an intricate dance. They crackled their satisfaction as they consumed a hapless log. I thought about my parents and that Shakespearian quote, and I fervently hoped that Bob and Mary knew, before they surrendered life, that we were not thankless children. I behaved like one on many occasions, wanting what they couldn’t provide, feeling hard done by, comparing myself to other with more toys (but not finer values) and generally being a bratty kid.
Eric was the same. We both had issues with our parents – his vastly different from mine – but we have come to a position of quiet acceptance about our childhood years and their influence on our lives. Eric and I argue in friendly fashion, we’re both impatient and capable of spitefulness. We also share a propensity for good-natured grumpiness. We are more like our parents than not. Their genes are safe in us but will end with us. Neither of us has children.
As I was driving home after dinner I realized how much I still miss my mother and father. The imprint of parents is indelible. We get to change the bits we’re not fond of if wisdom comes to us when it can still do us some good, but the die is cast in many other ways. In the case of my brother and me, that’s not a bad thing. Neither if us is thankless – bothersome by times – yes – but not thankless.
I love and appreciate my brother. I admire his many strengths – am annoyed immeasurably by his weaknesses – want to put a sock in his mouth sometimes – but I can say without doubt that he is honourable and steadfast. He’s not vocal about his feelings but I know he loves me in his inimitable shy way, just as I love him. Our parents raised us as they knew how – faults and all, but that’s the best any parent can do.
Spend time with your family while you can, both your parents and your siblings. Unless a family member is an axe murderer you’ll find good qualities, even if you don’t always like one another. Last night, I finally told Eric about my ongoing panic attacks and my perpetual anxiety. He listened without comment and while he didn’t trivialize it, neither did he judge me as wanting because of it. He’s a good brother. We come from good parents. We are thankful children, Eric and I. In my heart, I’m certain that our parents knew this to be true.