The exact year has long passed into insignificance, but the event and location seem set in the concrete of my mind when my father said, "You can never balance the books with family. You will always owe more than you can repay." I would like to hope this is the way I have lived in relationship with my family.
There may be some physical thing, some sought council or advice, something that I have knowingly withheld from any one of our children; but I don't know what it would be. It pains me to hear a parent say, "You owe me." As my father also said, my children are here by my invitation, by an act of my own will. Ken, Nathan, Matt, Susan, Benji owe me nothing -- I could never repay the love and joy they have given me.
Then there is my wife of these 43-plus years. I looked into a kitchen cabinet one day and wondered how I could ever live without Kay? What could I possibly have, or do, or say which might begin to repay her for all she's given me?
Balancing the books with family came to mind when my only sister, Diane, came from St. Louis to have Nathan fix her laptop computer. Diane is a very complicated person, for which her mixed-up computer gave ample testimony. She is twenty-two months younger than I, so neither of us has conscious memory of life without the other. She is my friend, sometimes confidant, and always my "favorite" sister. More than once throughout my storied life she has rescued me from difficult situations -- almost all of my own making. When my health began to go south it was Diane and her husband Bob who enabled our family to stay together and then to go forward to what became the life I very much appreciate and enjoy today. Whatever of life I have I owe in some immeasurable degree to them.
Nathan had some problems with Diane's computer. She had really done a job on it; and Nathan cannot resist a puzzle. He worked parts of three days, and ended up ordering more RAM. Diane had to leave to go back home so we shipped it to her. I did give some thought to holding on to it to entice her to make another visit. She asked how much she owes for fixing the darn thing. Di, don't you remember what daddy said (wasn't it just yesterday)? You can't balance the books with family. I'll send you a bill when what you owe me exceeds all that I owe you.
Dear Diane, I owe you
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.