Not quite a Silver Alert.

If I had a nickel for every time my children made me hang my head in shame with the realization that I have taken my own mother for granted in a million different ways my entire life, I’d have a huge bag of nickels to swing around to give myself a black eye over the shame of it. Probably two big bags to swing in each hand to give myself an actual concussion. Okay, fine. We could fill a giant car wash up with huge bags of nickels attached to the machinery instead of brushes. Then I could run through it and come out the other end bruised and battered just like I’m sure my mothers heart felt when I’d take her for granted day after day. Year after year.

My kids will never feel that particular crushing guilt as I explain in detail exactly what I’m doing for them. I’d make a pie chart and graph to use as visual examples if I thought it would help me make my point. Pack your bags kids, we are going on a guilt trip!

politeEvery so often a topic will come up to make me call my mom to apologize profusely. My mom just laughs and tells me that she really wanted to spend every single weekend driving me to my academic and sporting commitments and never truly wanted a single moment or dollar to spend on herself instead of me. I can never tell if she is telling the truth or if her level of sarcasm is just that advanced.

Guilt trips aside, I have a great relationship with my mother. If you took out all the years and relationship between us, we would still have enough in common to be friends. We have enough interests in common that if we were strangers that spent a weekend together, we would have a great time. When we talk on the phone, we can talk for hours.

My dad and I love each other, but if you took out all the relationship and family discussions, we don’t have that much in common. Not really. We both love to read, but that conversation can’t sustain an entire relationship.

softballMy dad would be one of the loudest parents in the stands when I played any sport. Hell, he got kicked out of many, many of my softball games. I would be pitching and he would be standing behind the fence less than 2 feet from the umpire. The tantrums and profanity and seizure like fits he would throw when the umpire did not acknowledge the awesomeness that was his daughter would make my heart swell. I knew I had just pitched a ball, but I still liked it when my dad was rabid with disbelief that pitch wasn’t a perfect strike in the umpires mind.

But the years pass and you grow up. You move away. You begin your own life as an adult. Your parents are no longer herding you to your various activities, watching you for hours, discussing your views and opinions for the 4 hour drive home.

memoryI’m not a teenager living at home and my dad is very much homebound. I live far away and he cannot travel to see me. The things that bonded us together when I was a child are distant memories of what used to be. It’s not that we don’t talk, my father calls me more than any other person. He calls because he loves me and he loves my kids. I cherish each and every one of those calls but those calls last at most 15 minutes. Once we verify the weather and the health of everyone, we don’t have much to break down into lengthily conversations. Not because we don’t want to have those conversations, it’s because he stayed my parent and we never developed into friends. The love is there, but not the friendship. Maybe it’s harder for a daughter to become her fathers friend than her mothers friend. That is such a shame.

I wish someone had told me that once I get past the growing up stage, finding common ground to continue an actual friendship with my parents was going to be important. I wish I had known that it was just as important for me to find interest in my father as it was for him to find interest in me.

A Silver Alert of sorts. More like a salt and pepper, prematurely gray timeframe warning. A cautionary warning to not lose your parents in the shuffle. But life isn’t stagnant and amazing moments are always around the corner.

Marriage books are full of advice on the importance of having hobbies and activities in common with your spouse. My husband is from Texas, he was raised on a ranch, and he was in the military. The man likes guns. He just does. I am not opposed or afraid of guns as I am also from Texas and my family is thick in both law enforcement and vague historical criminal escapades all up and down the family tree. Guns aren’t something new. I just never got excited about going to the gun range or hunting. A gun is just another tool.

You don’t use a tool unless you know exactly how to operate it. In an effort to become proficient in the tools we own and to truly understand an activity that my husband enjoys, I attended a very informative, very detailed, very professional class to become familiar with my gun.

Well…my gun in the sense that my husband handed it to me along with my protective eye and ear gear, my ammunition, my holster and some water to tide me over during class. I had no idea what he actually handed me. I was too busy making sure my new sassy gun range boots were coordinated with my new cammo top.

1911 45Basically he handed me a gun meant to take down a bear. And not just any bear. A raging Polar bear chasing me down on a frozen tundra with its only blood crazed thought to rend me limb from limb and chew my guts and bones like a tasty seal that was separated from it’s herd. He handed me a 1911 .45 ACP Sig Sauer. It’s the monster truck of guns.

I didn’t notice the looks of consternation from the men standing alongside me at the gun range or the fact that my ammunition and my gun were a lot bigger than theirs. But they noticed. I did notice the looks and words of praise from the instructor when I demolished my target with accuracy and skill.

I’m pretty sure I’d be a wet bloody spot on the snow if a Polar Bear attacked me, but that paper target was toast under my steely eyed, sassy new boots, cammo wearing determination. Which isn’t bad as lifting my gun was like hefting a bowling ball after a 5 hour class.

I leave the class content with my new certificate, my newfound compatible interest with my husband and I had no idea I had just opened a new door of communication with my father.

I called him that night thinking he would vaguely be interested to know that I had attended this class. Little did I know that I had just hit the relationship jackpot. I may have spoken to my father more in the past month than I had spoken with him in the past 3 years combined. Now when he calls, I have to make sure I have a block of time to actually have a conversation.

I took the time to grow. I took the time to be interested in something new. I spent 5 hours to change my thoughts and it changed my world. I found my missing salt and pepper prematurely gray parent. When your parent can become your friend once you begin your journey as an adult, it makes the world a better place to live in.

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