This past Saturday was our “End of the Summer” Barbeque and Madness Day. This year we scheduled it on the last day of Summer, although with the clouds overhead and crispy wind from the west it was closer to a Chill Fest. It’s a great time, as cousins, brothers, kids, kid’s friends, neighbors, parents of kid’s friends, and others gather for an afternoon of too much food, too much beer, and too many rides on the go-cart.
My family and friends have a thing about getting together. We have Polish sausage making parties, birthday parties, game nights, pool parties, camping weekends, and all other sorts of “occasions” that bring us together. Sometimes we have real reasons to get together; the kids birthdays, Thanksgiving dinner, weddings. Other times it’s important occasions like “we’re opening the pool” party or “we’re canning pickles” party. Sometimes we dress up (Halloween); other times we puff out in ski jackets and ski boots. One group of us try to have “Adults Only” dinners where no kids are invited so that we can talk about them, sex, and the good-old-days. Other times it’s a double-generation free-for-all as adults and their grown kids and their kids kids get together to play games and feast on potluck goodies. Sometimes we go camping with our kid’s spouses parents (in-laws-once-removed?), and sometimes we have a “build a deck” party or “pour a new patio” party. Work and play and food and drink seem to swirl into a waterfall of laughs, tears, and sweat.
Throughout the years I have come to embrace getting together with those we love. Most times it doesn’t cost a dime (except for gas money), and the commradere is a reward that cannot be found on Facebook. We celebrated my father-in-law’s passing with the same people who pile into the Polish Sausage Making Party, and those who bring homemade salsa to barbeques are the same ones who were there for me after my cancer surgery. We reach out to others, and they return in kind tenfold.
I’ve always loved my friends and family, but as I get older I not only love them, but cherish them as well. Perhaps that’s because I know the road in front of me is shorter than the one behind me. Maybe its because I realize that what you get out of life is equal to what you put into it. I don’t wait for others to invite me, call me, text me. I invite, I encourage others to invite. I expand our circle all the time, and find others are doing the same. What’s a couple of more people sitting around the fire? What’s one more person grinding pork or skiing down the slopes?
But maybe it’s because I know that life is too short to waste time on people who don’t really care — about others, about themselves. The world is full of mean people, selfish people. There are people around you that put you down, judge you for your size or marital status, people who have no patience for anyone but themselves. Perhaps they have life-issues; perhaps they have self-issues. But they are part of the human race too, and no man is an island. We all have our problems. We all deal with death and diabetes and unemployment. That is no reason to be mean to everyone else.
My family and friends come from all walks of life. Some of us live three hours from each other. Some of us work two jobs or have a job and go to school. Some deal with arthritis, failing kidneys, and bankrupcy. Some lost a parent when they were young; some have children from previous relationships. But when we get together none of that matters. We share stories, compare aches and pains, reminisce about those who have gone before us, those who are yet to come, and talk about kids and dogs and recipes.
Don’t let life pass you by without sharing it with those who matter. Have a game night. A barbeque. A potluck. Invite friends over to watch a football game. Have birthday parties with no presents. Make an effort to get up and get out. Memories don’t cost a thing. Neither does true friendship.
On the other hand, the price you pay for being alone is more than anyone can afford.