How do you deal with tough times and difficult situations? Are you resilient? Do you bounce back? Do you take things in stride? Do you move forward, past, beyond the event or environment? If you’re anything like me, you’ve never stopped to think about how your mindset as a child and young adult helps you cope with tragedies and loss. How would you respond if you suddenly lost a loved one? What if you lost your job or were forced into a career change? What if a change in circumstances took you two thousand miles away from the life you planned for your family? What if a short notice, short term project separated you and your spouse for a month or more?
A model railroader friend’s wife pulled into a parking spot to organize her food following her visit to the drive-through this morning. Another railroading friend and his wife joined me for breakfast, but not before he noticed B in the parking lot and walked over to check on her. He reported that she seemed OK and rather stoic as she pulled away; and then he explained to me that her husband and my railroading buddy of 33 years was in a drug induced coma and not expected to live. I hadn’t heard because we’ve been out of touch for ten years and just recently reconnected – he’s the only one in the group who had my email address and no-one else knew how to reach me to tell me what happened a week ago. I’m struggling today…
B is soldiering on, as is another railroad buddy of mine whose wife is in assisted living with Alzheimer’s. And another railroading buddy’s wife is suffering the ravages of age; but he’s so dependent on her we don’t think he’ll last a year if she goes first.
It appears as though life is catching up with the Kenowa Valley Switching and Sipping Society; and each of us is coping in different ways. S told me the group has an understanding that whenever one of us passes away, the rest of the group will take care of his railroad so his spouse won’t have to carry that burden alone.
As adults we’ve developed our own ways of coping, or not, and dealing with the aging process and the infirmities that come with it. But what about our offspring and how they will cope with the trials and tribulations of life? Will they make it? Will they be OK?
I wonder why some young people turn to drugs and gangs and life on the streets to cope, and I realize that maybe it’s all they’ve ever known because they’ve learned it from their families, and they’ve lived it. They may not even know there’s another side to their family history because they’ve never been exposed to it.
I recently read a Readers Digest article, “The Stories That Bind Us”, about resilience factors in children. I couldn’t find the RD story online, but it was derived from the same material that this New York Times storywas. Resilience it seems has at least some foundation in the family narrative that is shared with our children around the dinner table. But another articlethat lists the questions which comprised the study cautions that it’s not just about the dinner narrative. It’s more about all facets and processes of family life and relationships, and in particular the ‘communication of history’ process and the early imprinting of children on their parents and siblings.
We do our kids a huge favor by building a strong sense of family, establishing family traditions, building effective relationship developing processes, and sharing with them the good and the bad in our family’s history. We help them by grounding them in the family and making sure they get the bigger picture and how they fit into it. They need to know about their roots and the family’s branches. Some of the best life lessons of those who persevered come not just from the experiences of strangers but the experiences of family members.
Relating to another recent post of mine this just seems to reinforce with me the importance of preserving some family history through the tradition of storytelling, and supplementing the stories with a little documentation and some family heirlooms. It appears becoming a family historian in a small way as I proposed is a noble endeavor and one not to be taken lightly. And I think it’s never too late to begin telling the family narrative, and adding to it every chance we get.
Parenting and grand parenting just became way more important to me than a lot of other things I could be doing in these later years of my life. I just wish there was a way to know if we were successful in helping our kids become resilient, and close-knit; and that they, too, will soldier on without us. Maybe all we’ll get is an occasional clue:
Son to daughter: I always knew you could …
Daughter to son: You taught me most of what I know about …
D whispering to me: “they’ll be OK…”
Oops; once again throat tightening, eyes welling…Pops