I received an email this week that reminded me how vulnerable seniors can be to doubt. Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m a senior (that’s over 45, isn’t it?). But I’m talking about the percolation of thoughts that can corrode relationships and turn close friends and relations against one another.
But first, let me tell you the first time this happened to me …
My mother came out for her last visit with us … Of course, we didn’t know it would be her last trip to Oregon but I planned a fun trip, anyway. It tied in at the end with a business meeting I had scheduled up near Seattle. We knew she’d want to see her favorite nephew (five years younger than her) so coordinated a stopover at their place outside Olympia on our return.
Everything set, we took family and Mom first to Victoria, BC, for a half a week. Our last day, we headed for Nanaimo—also on Vancouver Island—to catch the ferry over to northern Washington. Missed the ferry we wanted but caught a later one.
By the time we got past Seattle and headed south on I-5 for Olympia, it was late. Very late. I was exhausted, the kids were restless, my wife and mother were likewise weary. It looked to be another hour and a half to my cousin’s house so I called and said we weren’t going to make it for the night but I’d drop them off in the a.m. before going back to my business meeting.
Next morning, I left them at Cousin’s house and I zoomed off to my meeting, two hours away.
Unknown to me, I had just dropped my family into a buzzsaw. They’d barely gotten into the house when my easygoing cousin and his dear wife started yelling … Yelling at my wife. At my mother.
My wife called two hours later from a motel—still upset—with the story. Seems my cousin and his wife, with whom we’d had many pleasant times together, had determined that since we’d stood them up the night before, we were terrible people.
Further details aren’t necessary, as they are both long deceased.
We pieced the scenario together and, combined with what I’ve learned later, what caused the uncharacteristic blowup was that some people … Usually alone or insulated from outside contact, often sedentary, getting up in years with far more history than future … And they start imagining things. Obsessive imaginings of perceived slights and hurts. Totally divorced from reality …
And my cousin and his wife behaved irrationally. Destroyed the relationship. They refused further contact. Because they imagined things that weren’t true.
Back to my email of this week. It advised me and a few others why the sender would no longer be attending our church. What? Yeah, out of the blue. There was a reason. One reason. So minor that I had to read it twice to figure it out. But what that item equated to was the feeling of the sender of the email (who’s alone and older even than me) that no one cared. No one listened. The person was disregarded.
I collected my thoughts and responded. I first expressed my regret, saying I could understand how one might feel if no one cares or listens, if one is ignored, etc. Then I ticked off eight or ten significant things I and others had done to include them. I hope the relationship will be restored, regardless where they go to church.
Imagination is a powerful thing. It’s a gift. It’s also influenced by emotion, which can be unreliable.
BTW, how’s your family doing? The one(s) you seldom talk to, the one who doesn’t tell you what’s on his or her mind? Remember, this is Christmas season. Everyone is supposed to be happy, to be included, to maybe even get a gift or at least a call. Doesn’t always happen.
Go down your cadre of people who just might fit the category of uncommunicative … lonely … questionable health … maybe even angry and distant … Maybe it’s their turn to call you. But if you’re reading this, you can be bigger than that. Forget their irrationalities. You can reach out. A call. Maybe a note.
Make it a gift of yourself. Consider the One who gave His all, to fill our world, to tell us we have worth, to listen to the beating of our hearts that no one else can hear. He will bring to your mind someone you need to call.
Don’t put it off.