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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pretzel Moments = True

My 9 year old niece just called me to get some advice on something she was writing. She said the assignment was called "Small Moments" and what sprang to her mind was the time my father (her grandfather)got angry at my sister (her mother) because she (my niece) was watching cartoons in his room.

"I'm thinking I'll write about the time that Grandpa said 'Can't they watch that crap somewhere else?'" she said, and then added, "But that wasn't my small moment, that was my mom's small moment."

I remember hearing about this moment when it happened. It was a huge moment because my dad always made way for the Cartoon Network when my niece and nephew visited. I don't care WHAT was on CNN (my dad's favorite channel and lifeline) when my niece and nephew came over it was straight to Sponge Bob. It was also the only time my father had ever lost his temper in any way when it came to my niece and nephew. It was about three days before he died although we all thought he would make a full recovery. The reality was he was suffering so severely. It was hard for him to eat and sleep and sit and he had to go to the bathroom in a commode next to his bed. I don't know which was worse. Watching the horror on his face when he realized that he actually couldn't make it to the bathroom on his own or hearing him apologize for putting us through anything that made us uncomfortable.

As I talk on the phone with my niece I drift back two years to that time, leading up to my dad's death, when our small family became smaller. "There's one less of us." I remember thinking over and over.

I tell my niece that I remember hearing about that moment when her Grandpa snapped at her mom and I remember that it was so out of character for him and my sister and I had realized, that day, that he was so sick he might not make it. He had never ever said a cross word to my niece and nephew but as he neared his last days when he couldn't breathe or walk or eat, well, he became cranky. My sister told me that he apologized instantly after he realized what he said. I think the main reason this moment stuck with my niece is because she had never known my father to be anything other than totally kind. It confused her. She barely remembered it. She knows her mom told her about it and on the phone we talked about the clear vague feeling she had about it. It has definitely stuck with her and, I told her, that's important---the things that stick with you are worthy of reflection.

My niece and I agreed that the point is that sometimes someone else's small moment can become your own and that there are moments, big and small, that stick with us forever. And talking about them and remembering them and figuring out how to put them on paper even though you might not exactly remember---that's what it's about. Because reading about someone else's description of their small moment leads to that moment of recognition "Hey---I've felt the exact same way" and that is the whole point.

Take tonight's phone call. Have you ever been having an evening of relative non-eventfulness and then gotten a phone call and heard the sweetest voice on the other end go "Auntie? It's me, Chloe. Do you have a moment to talk?"

Primary Ambassador of Small Moments

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