Column: Make time to keep in touch

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on Aug. 18, 2010

I’ve been battling a nasty cold-like illness since the middle of last week.

The week before that, I was in Florida for my great-grandmother’s funeral.

I’ve had better months than August 2010.

• • •

My great-grandmother – the last of my great-grandparents – was a magnificent woman.

Frances Lucille Bennett, 87, rode motorcycles, was into skeet and target shooting, played bridge with the best of them, traveled the world and deeply loved and cared for every one of her children, 22 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

I didn’t know her as well as most of the other grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

I was raised thousands of miles from her in Indiana and my visits to Florida became less and less frequent the older I got – especially once I began to work and no longer could spend all summer in Orlando with my father.

But the time I spent with her growing up always will have a special place in my heart. I had many a wonderful summer day at her house with its seemingly endless supply of Yoo-Hoo chocolate drinks – still one of my favorite treats – and rotating cast of family members who would find their way to her always-welcoming home.

Even when I stopped visiting Florida often – years sometimes passed between visits with her – she never once forgot my birthday, not even during the final stages of cancer.

On my desk is the last birthday card my great-grandmother ever sent me, right on time for my birthday on July 25. She passed away July 29.

I never got the chance to send her a thank-you card. I never got the chance to thank her for that simple act of caring and love she had shown to me for 29 straight years.

But I am grateful, all the same.

• • •

August 2010 reached its halfway mark on Monday.

On Tuesday, I called my brother for his birthday. Unlike my great-grandmother, birthday cards are not my style. If you happen to receive a birthday card from me on or before your birthday, beware, for the Apocalypse is nigh.

Though we’ve lived many hours apart ever since I went off to college, I’ve worked to maintain my relationship with my brother. I haven’t been as good at this with other family members and friends – losing touch with more than I care to mention.

It’s something I need to change.

I might never send out birthday cards on time, but I at least can do better at writing and sending out thank-you cards and how-ya-doin’ notes to those in my life. (I have a pile at home to send out.) It’s those small acts of caring that keep us linked with family and friends, especially those we no longer see on a day-to-day basis – or even a year-to-year basis in some cases. My great-grandmother understood this better than most.

Work can seem all-consuming to many of us – I’m a classic workaholic – but there are almost always pockets of time that could be used for keeping in touch. It’s not so much about making more time as it is using the available time better.

The links we create between us and those we love and care for are special, but without any communication, those links will wither away.

We can’t always be around those we’ve linked ourselves to throughout our life, but we can always show we still care – even if it’s just a birthday card or message sent once a year. No act of caring is too small.

I think Frances Lucille Bennett certainly would have agreed with that sentiment.

Joe Grace is the editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

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