My grandmother was a very intelligent, a very strong, and a fearless person. She taught me from an early age that we often need to rely on others, no matter how young, inexperienced or little they are. Her favourite phrase resonates with me still: On a souvent besoin d’un plus petit que soi.
In my life, I have often followed her sage advice. Whenever I didn’t, I was the one who lost focus. Life punished me for forgetting my roots and their teachings. When by refusing to accept people’s counsel, I tried to go at it alone, I ended up fighting a difficult battle. The moral of all this is that we are not born in a vacuum. We are not meant to forge ahead by ourselves. We are supposed to rely on one another in all things.
Most people, and I used to be one of them, disregard the wisdom of the old generation, thinking that they can do a better job than their mom and pop. They ignore the harsh facts of life. They ignore history, which tells us that most things happening to us now, have already happened countless times before.
There is nothing really new under the sun.
Well, in truth, there are some new elements added to the mix each day… 🙂
But these are outliers in terms of significance and weight. Only their steady accumulation over long periods of time, results in what we call ‘progress’.
Some people, and again, I am ashamed to say, I am one of those, also commit the sin of not paying enough attention to the young generation, who has a lot to teach us. Although relatively inexperienced, our children hold important lessons in their heads. They care deeply about other people, their parents, their school buddies, their teachers, their friends, and in general about life.
My daughter is a constant reminder of how precious the fresh mind of a child can be.
Today, as we were driving to see a movie, she started to tell her mother and I, how sad she was about the family situation of one of her girlfriends from school. In a nutshell, she told us the sad story of a girl, whose parents decided to split after raising her to the “ripe” age of 12. This story is not singular. This is the drama that thousands upon thousands of kids wake up to every day. And every night, they go to sleep not knowing whether or not their parents will still be together the next day, next month, next year.
Intermezzo: Before going along with the story, I must confess that Canadian society in general, and the Quebecois in particular, have long been afflicted by a very serious demographics crisis. 30 years ago, people have stopped having large families. 20 years ago, they stopped having any kids. 10 years ago, those families which still defied this trend, started imploding from within. Not all, but almost half of them started to unravel, leaving kids without the sense of a family, not really knowing what it means to be loved, cherished, embraced, supported, defended, nurtured, fed, and without a purpose.
The state quickly found a solution, which it hailed as salutary: immigration. Why bother supporting the basis of society, the family unit, when you can have ready made grown-ups from other lands? I must confess, that I am the direct beneficiary of such a policy. However, not even in my worst nightmares, and I do have a prolific mind able of conjuring both the divine as well as the incubus, did I expect to find a heartless world that did not consider the best solution for the young generation.
Children are the victims of a selfish society where women and men alike live a hedonistic life under the motto “My way or the highway!”. They say that youth are immature. But who is more immature? Those adults who are unable to find a marital compromise for the sake of their offspring OR their children who are traumatized beyond belief when their parents fight, argue or threaten one another with divorce?
My daughter recounted how her girlfriend was preparing to appear before a judge who would ask her to pick her guardian: her mother or her father. Teary eyed, my daughter evoked her 12-year old friend’s apprehensions, fears and emotions. She told us how her friend did not want to have to decide. All she really wanted was for her mom and dad to stay together under one roof. I tell you, people, I was crying on the inside. And so was my wife.
And then, our daughter suddenly changed her focus and with a hard accusing look she reminded us of arguments that we often, too often it seems now, we have as man and wife. It happened the day of the New Year when our tradition called for a trip to the casino. And how this year, my wife did not want to go. And how I did not react too good to her stubborn stance and foolishly uttered words that I did not mean, but which once uttered I could never delete their impression from our daughter’s psyche.
I told my wife that a tradition is sacrosanct and that we owe it to ourselves to go hit those slot machines. When my wife reiterated her refusal to budge, I, and this is where I am ashamed, I am deeply ashamed of my incredibly narcissistic position, I said that if she did not want to go, I would divorce her.
Did I mean it? No. Was I an immature, self-centered man with no sense of how damaging my words could be to my daughter and my wife? Yes, I was. I regret it profoundly now and even then I knew I was wrong. But the cat was out of the bag. My daughter started to look at me deeply hurt and I knew I had pained her. I immediately apologized and took it all back. But, two months later, today, she told me to promise her not to divorce her mother, my wife, which of course, was not my intention, then or now. I told her that I did not mean those words. I promised her we will all stay together no matter what.
So, I told her, we told her, that while other families deal with one another in an adversarial way, as if they are opposing sides in a trial, our family has learned the value of compromise, and that we deal in compromises on a daily basis.
That, when all is said and done, is the foundation of any marriage, of any meaningful relationship. That is our legacy for our daughter. And that is the lesson that she taught us. By making us promise her that we would stay together, we also showed her how to grow up, start a family of her own, and make sure to pick a man who, like her, understood the value of compromise.
Life is a shared experience. It is not a one way road leading into the sunset. It is difficult to stay together. But it is more difficult to live a lonely life, forever looking for love in an unloving world.
What we do in life echoes in eternity, said Maximus, the former Roman general, turned slave, turned gladiator. When we bring a child into the world, we owe it to ourselves and to them, to make the world better. That means leading by example.
The meaning of life is to remember the good ways of our ancestors and to communicate them to our children. We are but one chain uniting the one before with the next.
That is why, I miss you, grandma, I miss you a lot! I wish you were here to see how well your great-grand daughter turned out!