One of my favorite evenings of the summer is when I have dinner with Dr. and Mrs. Garfin. This past June I sent him a “Happy Anniversary” email on June 9th. He would never remember the date; but I will never forget. June 9, 1992, was the last of my three surgeries in San Diego; the day Dr. Garfin straightened my spine. Last week, we toasted each other: I toasted him for straightening my spine, and he toasted me for….well, for my spine being straight.
We also toasted our spouses. Dr. Garfin is so good at what he does not only because he is a skilled surgeon, but because he has a wife who supports and encourages his career. I know how much time Dr. G spent with me when I was in the hospital; which means that was time he was not with his family. That time made him a great doctor; it also meant he had a supportive and understanding spouse. So while I am grateful (extremely and forever!) to Dr. Garfin, I am also grateful for Mrs. Garfin allowing him to be who he is.
It was fun last week to talk about what we are doing now. Dr. Garfin was asked to stay on as Chairman of the department of orthopedics…again. When he finishes this term, he will have been Chairman for 20 years. Deservedly. He still operates almost daily and has changed (really changed!) thousands of patients’ lives. What an amazing legacy. Talk about making a difference!
Dinner with the doctor. It is an emotional night for me, even as I try to keep my kids in line and behave themselves. They are getting older - and they get it: this is the doctor who allowed me to have them. This is the doctor who allows me to jump the waves with them in the ocean and ride the water slides with them at a water park. That’s about all they need to know; but for a 10- and 8-year-old, that’s pretty impressive. Even for this 39-year-old, Dr. Garfin is pretty impressive. And I am grateful.
A couple of weeks ago, I celebrated my favorite day of the year. Not sure why, but I have always loved my birthday…maybe because it is a day I can call my own.
Growing up in Arizona, we were usually out of town in August and for my birthday (most people still leave town in August…it’s HOT in Arizona in the summer!). So I never had one of those fun birthday parties with my friends (and nowhere near the out-of-control birthday parties that kids have today). My birthdays were usually spent with family in Lake Tahoe, San Jose or San Diego (those are the places I remember the most). I don’t think I ever complained, and I certainly do not feel “woe-is-me” now; I think I just felt left out.
So I took ownership over the day and decided I was going to enjoy it, party or not. It was my day and I didn’t have to share it with anyone! (Doesn’t that sound like a preteen and teenage girl?)
In many ways this is the same choice we have each day: how do we choose to look at it? Do we focus on the negatives (not being at home for a party) or the positives (spending each birthday in a different location with those who love me the most)? It’s really simple, actually.
As I approach 40, life hasn’t changed much when it comes to my birthday. Life itself has changed, but I still don’t have a party, I often spend my birthday on the road with those who love me the most, and I still look forward to the day, even if it means getting older. It’s also not just “my day.” I share my birthday now with a dear friend - which I have found is even more fun than having it be just mine.
So perhaps the lesson is twofold: a reminder that our outlook each day is ours to choose, and a reminder that sharing is more enjoyable than selfishly keeping things to ourselves. And there is always the hope that older does mean wiser.
Last weekend I took a road trip with five kids (by myself) to the Grand Canyon. I could have driven forever (maybe because in the car I knew where all five of the kids were) and enjoyed showing my own children the big state of Arizona.
We visit Phoenix (almost) every summer, but have never taken our children to the Grand Canyon, or Sedona, or the Painted Desert or the Petrified Forest, or…. As I drove through the state, I realized how much of this great state there is to see, how big it is, and how little of it my children have actually seen.
Of course when we come to Arizona, it is grandparent time and cousin time. So what was the best way for me to convince my kids that touring the state (and spending several hours in the car) was a good idea? Take the cousins along. This must have been what my mom was thinking 35 years ago, when she made the solo trip with five kids (including cousins) to the Grand Canyon…
I am always amazed at the beauty and massiveness (is that a word?) of the Grand Canyon - no matter how many times I see it. What I didn’t know was how my children would react: they were amazed. Each time I pointed out an animal or the beauty of the sun reflecting on the rocks, they would stare for several minutes, or ask to take a picture. For five kids (ranging from ages 13 to 5) and who often do not have a long attention span, it was impressive to see them in awe of the impressive wonder of the world before them.
There were many questions about how it was formed, how long it took, etc… I always appreciate their questions because it allows me to tell them things without feeling as though I am presenting unsolicited lessons. They accepted my answer of Only God (and the Colorado River) could create something so beautiful…
And I started thinking about a friend. A friend who has spent the last two months in the hospital by her husband’s bedside as he faced death several times, and is still battling an ugly disease and its complications. I know she has seen God’s hand in her husband’s survival, which is beauty in a different way. I texted her a picture from the Grand Canyon to let her know I was thinking of them. To remind her that while we can see God in everyday miracles and simple joys, He is massive in his strength and presence.
Take your children to the Grand Canyon (even if you have to drive with five children). And take the time - no matter where you are - to point out the simple beauty of everyday life.