Both my mother and mother-in-law found the time each day to call friends and members of their families to find out how everyone was doing. They were historians and counselors, keepers of current information about the people for whom they cared. They spread cheer and hopefulness in a regular routine guided by carefully crafted calendars that included birthdates and reminders of anniversaries and other special occasions. They shared information with the rest of us who depended on them to keep us informed of the happenings and concerns. I came to think of them as the glue that kept the disparate individuals who were parts of their lives firmly connected and aware that someone truly cared. Theirs was a kind of duty that each assumed with grace and loving concern, a task that the rest of us often took for granted until it was no longer there. When they died the beautiful network of compassion, celebrations, and unity slowly fell apart, never again to be quite the same even as others attempted to undertake their roles.
There are people who seem to be organically attuned to the needs of the people around them. While the rest of us struggle and juggle the demands of daily living they somehow manage to not only get their personal agendas fulfilled, but also find time to keep the web of their connections operating with vitality and joy. They write texts, make quick phone calls, send cards, visit hospitals and nursing homes, attend showers, weddings and funerals without seeming to ever miss a beat. They make their ability to encircle us with love and fun and sincere compassion seem easy, and yet we know that it is not. We have the best of intentions to emulate their actions, but they actually regularly follow through on promises that keep the fires of family and friendship burning.
My dear friend Pat was glue, and sometimes she wondered aloud why so few of the people that she nurtured were apt to return the favor. We tended to take for granted that she would plan the dinners or the evenings at the movies. It was almost always Pat who would decide that it had been too long since we had enjoyed one another’s company and she would make something happen to rectify that. She had active friendships stretching all the way back to her childhood. There were people far away with whom she regularly kept in touch, and when she traveled she often scheduled time to stop by their homes, usually bearing gifts and her radiant smile. Sadly those of us lucky enough to be recipients of her largesse felt lost after her death because nobody was ever able to replicate her willingness to keep us all together. Our contacts became mostly limited to yearly Christmas cards and posts on Facebook as we drifted off into our seemingly too busy lives.
Pat always fretted that being the glue wasn’t actually that difficult with just a smidgeon of planning. She confessed that she always kept a supply of desserts or easy to prepare dinner items in her freezer to be ready for last minute guests. She taught me her secrets of house cleaning in the event of a quickly planned party. It included quickly swishing out the guest bathroom and cleaning the kitchen countertops. A room that nobody ever entered became a quick and easy depository of items strewn around the living area. Dusting was optional. The most important thing to her was letting people know that her home was an open and welcoming haven no matter the time of day. Every one of us understood that at the very least we would be treated to a warm cup of coffee and a plate of cookies as we sat around her kitchen table enjoying a short break from our cares and woes.
I’ve tried Pat’s hints but somehow I find myself getting misdirected again and again. I don’t know why it all seems to be more difficult than it should be, but I suppose that some people are born to be the glue, and the rest of us have to work very hard to develop that talent. Maybe it really is a bit more like rocket science than it appears to be, because I haven’t found too many people who are incredibly skilled at being the glue, so I treasure them when I encounter them.
When I graduated from high school I had imagined that my classmates would be my lifelong friends, and a few of them did indeed continue with me on my journey through the decades. Mostly though I lost touch with people who had been so important to me during my development. I just lived my life and rarely looked back until Carol appeared on the scene ready and eager to bring the fractured memories of our high school years to life. It began as a promise to her twin sister that she would be certain to plan a stunning fiftieth reunion for our Class of 1966. In the process it became a kind of family project in which Carol became the glue that would cement our relationships in the most profound ways. Even though we had seemingly become strangers spread out all over the country, Carol found us and reminded us of who we had been and the lessons we had shared. Our gathering was exceptionally heartwarming, but it was not to end there because those who are the glue never go halfway.
Carol has become our spokesperson, alerting us to the important information that we need about each other. She is a constant presence at funerals and calls to wish us well on our birthdays. She closely follows our posts in social media and inquires about our well being. She has become more like family than some of our actual family members, and we sense that her concern for our health and happiness is genuine. Her goal is to keep the flames of our renewed friendships burning with warmth. To that end she and another classmate, Terry, plan lunch dates at restaurants around town where we gather to share stories and learn more and more about each other. Mostly those events help us to realize that our families are more than just those with whom we are genetically linked. We are a group who share a unique bond forged at a time when we had little idea where our dreams would take us. What we have found is that our school motto of growing in wisdom and age and grace before God and man became the foundation of our goals, and despite the cliques and angst of our youth we really are uniquely one team, one family.
People like my mom, my mother-in-law, Pat and Carol are quite special. They are the glue that binds us and assures us that we are loved. Somehow they bring out the best in all of us by pulling our individual strengths together into one very colorful and exciting group. They create stunning mosaics that we sometimes can’t see until we stand back just a enough to witness their masterpieces. That is when their artistry becomes a breathtaking moment of unsurpassed beauty, for they are true healers of the soul.