Don't bother trying to make plans with me on Friday mornings. I already have a standing "date."
For the past year-and-a-half (actually, it's probably been longer), I've been meeting my Uncle Bob for breakfast every Friday morning at Panera in St. Clairsville. Sunshine, rain, snow, ice-it doesn't matter-we are committed to making this date no matter what.
I'm not really sure how it began. I knew he frequented Panera for breakfast, and I think I stopped in once or twice on my way to work in the morning to say hello and to grab a coffee. Eventually, I made it a weekly habit, arbitrarily picking Fridays because, well, it's Friday!
The routine is the same-he makes it there well before I do and always sits at the same table. He stands up a $5 bill at the end of the table-his way of telling me he's buying breakfast for me (as he does every week). I always greet him with a hug and kiss, and he always greets me with a cheerful, "Hey, babe!"
Perhaps there's a pretty big age difference-me a 30-something and he a 70-something-but that disappears pretty quickly once our conversation gets going. I love listening to him tell me about his time in the Navy, about growing up in a very large family and about his work adventures. He listens as I prattle on about work, wedding plans, cooking dilemmas, health care issues and pretty much anything else that happens to be on my mind that morning.
One thing I really appreciate about my conversations with Uncle Bob is that he keeps a lid on anything and everything we talk about. My aunt tells me that sometimes she'll ask my uncle how breakfast was, but he just answers, "Fine," without any elaboration. A few weeks ago, I told Uncle Bob about my fiance Justin's new job, and when my aunt asked him later that day about his breakfast, he told her, "Justin has a new job, and that's all I'm going to say about it."
Uncle Bob has a sharp, quick wit that I envy, and we spend most of our time together laughing. He's got so many comical expressions and little sayings that it's hard to remember just one. And when he's not making me laugh, he's listening to my current predicament. He really listens; he doesn't lecture me or tell me what to do, and that means a lot to me and also speaks volumes about our relationship.
There have been times when health issues, appointments or inclement weather forced us to change or cancel our plans. My week doesn't feel complete unless I close it out with my Friday breakfast date.
Once, Uncle Bob couldn't make our date because he was in the hospital. That didn't stop me! I left the house extra early that Friday, stopped at Panera to get a takeout order for us, and surprised my uncle with breakfast at the hospital. Maybe the location was different, but the company and conversation were the same.
Growing up, I never had the opportunity to know any of my grandfathers. I recall my great-grandfather, who outlived both of my grandfathers, but I was still very young when he died. But, never having had that unique viewpoint of a grandpa in my life, perhaps that's why I really cherish this time with my uncle. He provides a window to a different generation, and I've learned a lot from him.
Many people tend to take relationships for granted, especially those relationships with family. People think relationships like these don't need work because being a blood relative means you're already close. Not so. Relationships with family need nurtured just like those with friends-how would a plant grow if it didn't get a little bit of water from time to time?
Having cancer taught me to seize opportunities when they present themselves. I know it all sounds cliche, but we really don't know how much time we have left. Don't put something or someone off, assuming it will still be there tomorrow, because it might not be. Spend time with the people you care about and be sure to let them know how you feel about them. Sure, they probably already know you care, but it never hurts to say, "Thank you" or "I love you."
And I know I've already said it plenty of times, but thanks for breakfast, Uncle Bob. I love spending time with you and I can't wait until Friday. I think I can already smell the coffee.