Monday, February 11, 2019

Real Valentine's Day Love

For Valentine's Day I wanted to share something very personal and special. Following are some of the words I found written on the backs of envelopes, cards and scraps of paper from my dad to my mother.

Good morning honey,
Thank you my honey for everything. I love you so much--you are my one love, my only love you'll always be. I want your love and happiness for as long as we both have. You mean the whole world to me. Thank you for sharing beauty and nature and true love. All my love, Rich

Dear Hon, I want to thank you for 30 years of love, patience, and understanding. You've truly lit up my life. I love you more than any words will ever tell. You are really a very special person and I thank God that he sent you to me. I hope for at least another 30 years with you my love. Forever your love, Rich

Things I want you to know:
by Richard Mattia to Eileen Mattia

If I were to do it all over again, I would pick you. You bring more love into the world than anyone I ever knew or know now. You are the most unselfish person in the world. I love you so much that it hurts. I love you because of the way I feel with you--warm, true, heartfelt love. I hope you feel this for me for me also. Love forever, Rich

For Eileen:
You're the one for me, you know
Hate to ever see you go
With you I'd like to always be
I love you truly don't you see.
For if we ever have to part,
I know for sure it would break my heart.
I love you I love you every day
And that's the way it will always stay.
Yours forever Rich

Just a few lines to let you know I'll be thinking about you. I love you truly honey. Have a real nice morning. I'll miss you. Enjoy a cup of coffee for me. See you soon. All my love, Rich

I love you more each passing day
Let nothing ever take that away
Thank you for your kindness
Thank you for your love
You are Eileen, my mate, my dove.
I want you to be happy, I want you to be gay
For this I'll strive forever, now and every day.
I want to be yours forever
Let nothing change that ever.
For my love is always true,
Don't ever let's be blue.
All my love, Rich

All my love to a really good person. Thank you for showing me many beautiful things and teaching many more practical things along with true love. I'm looking forward to our date for tonight. All my love, Rich

Good morning honey. Many kisses on ya! I'll miss you today. Have a good day. All my love, Rich

Happy Anniversary My Love!!!
Proud to call you my wife
The only love of my life.
We've been through so many things
God's given you angel's wings.
I love you more after 41 years
Hope there are never more tears.
Love you forever,

Good morning beautiful,
Thank you for being so nice. Had a real good day with you yesterday. You really looked gorgeous. Love you. Hope you had a good night's sleep. The pecan loaf was delicious. All my love honey for you. See you soon. Love & kisses, Rich

There was a basket my mother kept near her kitchen table that spilled over with love letters and cards that Dad gave her throughout their marriage. We lost both of our parents in the last two years, and these writings have become a beautiful link to his love for Mom.

Every so often when I visited, Mom pulled a crumpled page out and asked in a shy, giggling, school girl kind of way, “Did you ever see some of the notes your father wrote me?”

In her dementia, Mom didn’t realize that I’d heard the letters read many times. But to her, it was always the first time. It was a way to reignite the passion she and Dad shared, and helped her to see herself as my father always did: as the young beauty he once courted.

Though the ravages of aging were upon her, the thinning, gray hair, bent body, and same sweatshirt stained with jelly from the previous day; inside was the young girl. The one my father loved.

Monday, February 4, 2019

No More Pity Parties

Last week I didn't like myself. I'd snapped angrily at a co-worker. And my boss noticed. It came after feeling pretty down because of another co-worker's absence. You see, the missing employee was one of my best friends. We could count on one another when we could count on nothing else. We shared life stories, God stories, and the love of stories. We had so many similarities, and I thanked God every day for putting this woman in my life. How I missed her.

 Yes, a bigger workload fell on me. I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself. And that was the problem.

Too many times in life, I developed the "I'm sorry for me, boo hoo" routine. Nothing good ever happens to me. Another person always catches a break. I have so much to do. It's only me. I'm the only one that ever works this hard. Yuck.

I had to phone my brother and talk with him. Not only is he a therapist, but he's very close to me, and I felt the need to confess my complaining and whining.

 He did understand, and admitted that he, too, does this same thing. Well, then, perhaps I'm not so evil after all. But I knew that I still had to make a change. I didn't like myself and who I professed to be, versus who I really was.

With prayer, forgiveness, and great advice from my brother, I set out to make changes. Instead of looking at the whole day ahead of me at work like I was the lone climber on a very steep mountain, I calmly began asking others if they would help with certain tasks. Not only were they willing to oblige, but they also became very good at the jobs, and were a great blessing to me. No longer did I feel alone. I had team members who were also going above and beyond. We bonded during a difficult time and not only survived, but thrived.

I think back to the one person in my life who never whined, complained, or played the "poor me" game. That was my father. Life threw many curves his way and he always handled every situation with grace, patience, and tireless understanding. No, he was not perfect, but he was good, truly good. He worked early hours in his years at the postal service, sometimes leaving at 3 a.m. I never heard him say a word of protest about this. Even when he had to leave on snow-covered roads that no plow had yet touched, my father kept his chin and spirits up.

He was a hard worker around the house and in the years that Mom had anxiety and unable to do normal tasks, my father stepped up and went beyond his own duties, but never said a bad word about my mother, or seemed angry to have to pick up the slack.

When his health began to fail, Dad wouldn't stoop to pity and sadness. When asked how he was feeling, he cheerfully answered, "Fine!" And we believed it. This man never had the spotlight of attention, whining, or any type of coddling. He was a hero to our family, a real man's man.

I need to remember this when I feel the assault of a pity party coming on. I need to remember the man who showed our family that true strength comes from quietness, calmness, and sometimes even brokenness. 

God, may all of us in this family take on the traits of Dad. Help us to learn to do our duties without complaint, our responsibilities without anger, and to take what life gives us without regret.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Groundhog Day

(Photo is not my own.)

Wake up, go to work, come home, repeat. Oh, and did I mention that it's dark when I leave for work and dark upon my return? Working during the winter is blah. Sometimes I feel that I am in a cocoon of "Groundhog Day"- type living. The worst of it, I also seem to be burned out on my job. I've done this for almost forty years! (Oh say it isn't so....) But it's true. When I began in the dental field in on-the-job-training as a late teenager, I adored it.

The most rewarding part of my job has always been the people. I've met some wonderful families, heard some truly inspiring stories from them, and feel I've helped a few of them along the way. I liked the learning involved with a field I'd known nothing about, and have become proficient in some of the trickier aspects like dental insurance. I've made incredible, life-long friendships with some of my co-workers.

Why is it that I could pull the covers up over my head when the bedside alarm sounds in the morning? What is causing me to wish away a few years and pray for retirement?

The Bible tells us: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you are working for the Lord and not men. God, am I disappointing you because I am just plain tired of the daily grind? For I feel you want so much more from me--more than I'm willing to give right now.

Perhaps even those who are retired or those who aren't working for other reasons feel a type of burnout, feel a day after day sameness that they want to escape. How do we pull ourselves out of Groundhog Day? What is our answer?

Yesterday at work, I had to talk about insurance and pricing with a husband and wife. The woman and I had spoken on the phone several times about her husband's case. As I was about to leave the room, the wife spoke up. She told me how good I am at what I do. She said it is a pleasure talking with me on the phone and in person. That I truly care about people and it shows in how I handle myself at my job. She thanked me for everything and I found myself smiling as I left the room. I didn't share this with anyone else. Like a secret prize, I wanted to hold those words close to myself and think about them.

Maybe I am still making a small difference every day. I don't see it most of the time, and I don't hear about it very often. But this woman took the time to appreciate what I'd done. I felt worthy, intelligent, humbled, and blessed. I hadn't looked at myself like that on my job in a very long time.

What will it take for us to step out of the boredom and daily grind? The sameness and routine? Perhaps just a few words for you to ponder. A few things to say to yourself each day:

You are worthy, loved, and blessed. You are good at what you do. Whether it's your job, gardening, crafting, talking, teaching, listening, whatever it is. Step back for a moment, take a long look at your life. Know that there is someone who appreciated you and wanted what was best for you. Whether it has been a parent, spouse, sibling, cousin, friend, or co-worker. Someone, somewhere has been touched by a kindness that you've done. Sinner or saint, none of us are perfect. But I believe we all have the desire for good within us and the ability to boost another person with the power of our words and actions.

Let's learn together to embrace the morning darkness-- the crisp feel of the chilly air--it means our lungs are working! The days of dark don't last long, for the spring is peeping around the corner. Let's feel good about what we do, whether it's assembly line work, fast food, or heart surgeon. Because if we've done it long enough, we do it well. And let's remember to speak an encouraging word over someone who has done a well-done job for us. Spoken words have power. The kind of power to change a life.

When our own personal Groundhog Day is over, and something in our world changes, may it be wonderful and life-giving. May it be the very thing needed to give us a sense of accomplishment and peace.