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The Suburbanite
  • STEVE KING: Holidays, every day about family

  • Denis is a good friend. That said, I still wanted to hit him with a cross-body block several weeks ago.
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  • Denis is a good friend.
    We're about the same age and as such have had a lot of similar life experiences. We get along so well that we can finish each other's sentences.
    Plus, he's loyal and a stand-up guy. If you need something – just about anything – he's there with it on the double. Those things really mean something to me.
    In addition, he passes the acid test in that he can – and often does – laugh at himself. There's not a pompous bone in his body. I'm not into people who cop an attitude.
    That said, I still wanted to hit him with a cross-body block several weeks ago. Considering the fact we've both been eligible to join AARP for years, it would have hurt me just as badly as it hurt him.
    But, if there had been someone there to egg me on, I nonetheless would have done it and worried about the consequences – and the hospital bills – later.
    Yes, I was that disappointed, distraught and devastated. And I don't get that disappointed, distraught and devastated much anymore. It's just not worth it; Life is too short.
    It all started innocently enough when I asked Denis about his plans for Thanksgiving.
    "I don't know," he said. "I might not do anything. I might just stay home."
    Huh?
    "What about your mom? I just assumed you were getting together with her," I said.
    Denis is single and lives close to his mother, who is 83 and widowed but still in great shape. She hops into her car whenever she feels like it and drives wherever she feels like going. She even gets out and mows her own lawn when Denis and his siblings aren't there to stop her.
    "She's going to my uncle's house, and I don't want to go," he said.
    Huh?
    "Is that your mom's brother or your dad's brother?"
    "My dad's brother. That's the only brother of his who's still alive."
    "Denis, wait a minute. Other than your mom, your uncle is the last living connection you have to your dad. To spend the day with both your dad's brother and your mom is a no-brainer. You've got to go."
    "I don't want to go. It's not fun going there. I've never liked going there. I've never liked anything about it. And even if I go, I won't be able to spend any time with my mom because my uncle won't quit talking. I can't get a word in edge-wise. Nobody can. It gives me a headache."
    When you're 7-years-old, you complain about going to your relatives' house because your uncle, just to joke around with you, intentionally squeezes way too hard when he shakes your hand and your aunt gives you big, wet, sloppy kisses that leave red lipstick stains on your cheek. I get all that.
    Page 2 of 3 - But when you reach the point where they don't bother carding you at restaurants to see if you're old enough for the early dinner senior citizen discounts, you've kind of tested out of holiday gatherings being all about you. It's about others.
    "Denis, you're not going to your uncle's house with your mom to spend time with your uncle. You're going there to spend time with your mom. That's your mom. She's not going to be around forever. Drive her to your uncle's house, go inside with her and have a good time – or at least as good of a time as you can have. You can thank me later."
    He didn't budge.
    I didn't budge, either. I can be just as stubborn.
    My mom – and my dad – have been gone not just for years, but for decades. They've been gone for so long that I'm beginning to forget bits and pieces about them. I would do anything to sit down with them at the dinner table on Thanksgiving for 10 minutes – just 10 minutes – one time. Denis is lucky because he still has his mom and she's in such good shape that she'll probably dance on my grave.
    He still has the chance to spend time with her and he needs to savor it.
    After explaining this to him, he was silent for moment or two. My trump card had worked, I thought.
    "I'm still not going," he said.
    Arghhhhh!
    Case closed. For both of us.
    We had reached a peace that could be respected and appreciated by both parties.
    But if I had it to do again, I would do the same thing and plead my case. I had to stand up for moms everywhere. And dads. And sons. If I hadn't done so, then I couldn't have lived with myself.
    You have to keep your mouth shut on most things. Instead, you pick and choose your spots to do battle. You learn that when everybody under the age of 35 calls you, "sir," as they hold the door open for you because they don't think you're strong enough anymore to do it on your own. It's called experience – life experience. As you get older, you get your doctorate degree in that.
    Because of that, I knew – I just knew – that this was one of those spots to wage battle, and if I passed it up, it might never come around again. So I had to seize the moment.
    Now, though, the moment was over and so was the battle. It was time to move on.
    "So, Denis, what are you going to do on the day after Thanksgiving?
    "You knucklehead, I hope you spend it with your mom, for crying out loud."
    Page 3 of 3 - "What was that? I couldn't hear what you just said."
    "Oh, nothing."

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