Relatives who relocated “out West” were in town last week. We met at my mother-in-law’s apartment several times. On one occasion their adult son, a single guy who still resides in Michigan was with us.
The relatives, including their son, are not particularly loquacious. One is an M.D. who has been trained to listen. Another is a counselor, superbly inclined both personally and professionally to listen. They carefully consider what they are about to say before it comes out of their mouths. When they speak, it’s usually something worth the time and attention it takes to hear, understand, and apply to one’s own situation.
I’m from a different region and cultural background than the family into which I married. We are compatible to the degree that opposites attract. They are comfortable to watch golf on TV and be quiet while someone in another state is lining up a putt so as not to make him or her miss. Quite in contrast, I’m usually looking around for things on which to comment or calling up things recently reported in the news upon which to profess my opinions.
Around the living room that evening, such talk as there was ranged far and wide across several topics, things like favorite ice cream flavors, the weather, the Detroit Tigers’ recent bad luck and such. My own electric bill had recently, so I chose to bring that up and complain about how it is computed. I’d gone on far past the extent of anyone else’s interest in the topic when my closed-mouth brother-in-law chose a nearby posh neighborhood to use as an example and said, “If you didn’t live in East Grand Rapids, you wouldn’t have that problem.”
I have many privileges. Except when camping, I’ve never had to spend the night farther than an arm’s reach from electricity. I’ve always had the resources to pay the power bill. Given that folks in Puerto Rico are still depending on little gas-powered generators and my friends nearby suffer power-outages after storms, my own whining and complaining are just ways to draw attention to myself.
I’ll try to keep that in mind, and I need to send a thank you letter out west.
David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan