Sid’s Sense- King & Queen and Silver Bullets
View previous posts in this series, Sid’s Sense.
I grew up in a traditional home with a father who worked long hours as an attorney and a mother who stayed home. I was lucky. It was a loving, peaceful home. Today I’ll share specific lessons I learned from my father about relationships. I’ll be elaborating on many of these in my we belong posts in the future.
Marriage & Family
Lesson #1: Respect is key
My father is Jewish and my mother was a devout Catholic. Back in the early 1950’s, Jews did not marry Catholics. It was a Romeo and Juliet scenario. With the exception of my grandmother, all of my mother’s aunts were nuns. My Dad’s family came here from London and built businesses from the ground up. Their Jewish heritage was important to their identity here in the United States. My great uncle who lead our Passover Seders saw his family hauled off in the Holocaust. I think you get the picture. For them to marry was no small ordeal.
Half of marriages fail even without the odds stacked against them from day one. So how did this one survive 52 years?
Adversity can fuel determination.
My parents eloped after my father found a priest who agreed to marry them (after my Dad gave him a few beers:-). Neither one of my parents converted to the other’s religion, rather they chose to respect each others beliefs. The very fact that no one thought it could last may have been one reason it did. You know Sid loves a challenge! Seriously though, they entered the marriage knowing it would require compromises. They said “I do” with open minds and committed hearts.
Tolerance and respect differs from agreement.
We all learned tolerance for beliefs that differed from our own. My mother never missed church no matter where we were. For holidays and on vacations, we ALL attended Catholic mass. My mother attended high holy day services with us and transported us to Sunday School. She didn’t know Hebrew from Chinese but that didn’t matter. She made the best matzoh ball soup for Passover, much better than any of my Jewish aunts. A Catholic making a perfect matzoh ball is like a vegan making a perfect pork tenderloin- ain’t supposed to happen! After awhile, the jealous aunts admitted her soup was the best and she was assigned the task every year. (Don’t worry– you’ll get that recipe!)
It didn’t matter whether we surrounded a menorah or a Christmas tree, the important thing was that we gathered around together.
Lesson #2: Parents are the King and Queen
My father made it very clear that we came second. They came first. To disrespect his Queen was to disrespect the King. Neither were tolerated. There is only one time when my Dad could care less about the facts- when my mom made a decision.
Always put forth a united front.
My father respected my mother, her command of the house, and her word was final. He paid no attention to the circumstances or our pleadings for an overrule. Not only did this teach us about minding our parents, we witnessed the mutual respect of a husband and wife. Families are not democracies.
Better to make a wrong decision united than debate in front of the kids.
Lesson #3: Nurture Family
Friends come and go but your family is forever.
Stages of life are constantly changing and so are the people you connect with along the journey. In the normal circle of life, with exceptions of course, we lose our parents and all we have left are our brothers, sisters, and cousins. Nurture respect between siblings when they are little. Do not allow bullying.
Teach children how to be siblings.
Siblings should help each other out but not be expected to raise their brothers and sisters. This is the surest way to resentment. My father has always considered his 3 children a unit that depends on each other. He has always preached the importance of getting together no matter how old we are or where we are in the world. You may have children who are very different from one another. Teach them to take advantage of this and spread their strengths to support one another.
Keeping families together over time.
Those “once in a blue moon” reunions where all you do is talk to those you talk to back home–what’s the point? I love the idea but I’ve never found them to work out as intended. I think they would be better if they surrounded an activity rather than just a buffet.
Reunions make more sense when they gather together people you grew up with but don’t see regularly anymore. You automatically mingle because the familiarity is there, you can see how the kids have grown, and you reminisce. Just remember it is usually the matriarchs of the family who make these events happen and as those matriarchs pass away, the next generation has to step in and take over.
Lesson #1: If you end up with 1 or 2 silver bullets in your life, consider yourself lucky.
A “silver bullet” is that friend who knows you so well and likes you anyway. So who qualifies as a silver bullet?
- Is by your side in an emergency
- Knows your history
- Would attend your parent’s funeral
- Tells you the truth tactfully even if it’s not what you want to hear
- Would not ask you for money if you won the lottery
- Who knows what you look like “back stage”
If you can trust this person with your first born and your bank account passwords, you have narrowed down the list. It can take a lifetime to find one or two silver bullets and when you do, put them in your sacred treasure box.
Lesson #2: Give to your friends because it makes you happy to make them happy.
My father and I both can give endless examples of where we invited individuals, families, and couples over for an evening never to have it reciprocated. Or had a party only to find out we weren’t invited to their party. My parents entertained a LOT over the years and so have we. We have spoiled many friends with sit down dinners and given tokens of appreciation for their friendship. For years I couldn’t figure out what was wrong when we always had such a great time but very few ever returned the gesture. My dad and I have had many discussions about this.
He said there are all sorts of reasons people don’t reciprocate and very few, if any, have to do with you. So as I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved from resentment to gratitude. I no longer take it personally. I continue to exert the effort because it gives ME joy to make people happy.
It gives ME joy to tell another mother they cannot get up from the table to help serve or clean up. It gives ME joy to try out new gourmet recipes I would never make if they weren’t there. When you entertain you must enjoy your own party. (Tips on entertaining will be coming in the roll the dice category).
The greatest lesson is to give without ever expecting anything in return.
Lesson #3: Stay in touch with those who know your roots.
One man who influenced Sid the most was a man named Calvin. Calvin was a master carpenter, plumber, designer, and handyman extraordinaire. Calvin taught my Dad how to do everything around a house from building walls to installing toilets. When I was little I used to watch Calvin at work remodeling our home.
Calvin had 4 children whom we grew to know and love. We were so close to this family that it became a long standing joke that my Dad might just be the father of Malvin, one of Calvin’s sons, because he was born with lilly white skin (this family is African American). Malvin, a successful business executive now, towers over me at well over 6’5” and yet I brag that I taught him how to swim. A few years can go by but when I see this family, I feel connected on a deep level. Maybe I should call Malvin, Hal, Audrey, Ruth my gold bullets.
What I know for sure is that these relationships you develop when you’re a child belong in a class of their own.
My View Looking In
Surveying my Dad’s relationships with others, there is one thing for certain. He leaves an impression. Doesn’t matter if you’re his silver bullet or a checker at the grocery store. I’ll leave you today with my top 10 list on how to be a true friend based on these observations.
- Be yourself. Let your quirks out of the box.
- Be trustworthy. Say what you mean and do what you say.
- Be charismatic. Charisma is magnetic.
- Be helpful. If you’re strong, help lift. If you’re wise, give advice. If you’re funny, make people laugh.
- Be the initiator. Don’t stand on ceremony.
- Be open. Tolerance opens your heart and mind.
- Be mindful. False expectations can crush a friendship.
- Be protective. Stand up for your friends.
- Be honest. Total honesty tactfully spoken is a sign of a true friend.
- Be respectful. Respect wants, needs and boundaries of others.