September 24, 2021
Well-being is a term often used in tandem with health. It is a state that we all seek to achieve.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes well-being as a positive outcome that is meaningful for people. According to the CDC, there is no consensus around a single definition, but terms like emotion, fulfillment and satisfaction are generally associated with well-being. What is clear is that well-being, and the positive impact that it can have on your health, can come in many forms.
A recent family visit brought me front and center with my well-being.
I am one of five siblings. Last weekend, my two out-of-town sisters and brother came home to visit my mom and celebrate the birthday of my twin sisters. When joined by my locally-living sister, their return brought all five of us together for the first time since my dad's passing in 2017. For the past year or so, Mom has been living in a nursing home. While COVID-19 presented challenges, somehow, they all got time with her. She was extremely happy, and I felt good that they saw Mom. Zoom calls and the telephone are OK, but there's nothing like an in-person visit, even if you can't hug.
As meaningful as it was to know that Mom saw her children, what was equally meaningful to me was the time that the five of us shared over the weekend. With four of us in our 60s, we're at the point where the conversations have a wide range. Our dinners were peppered with stories from our childhood, the accomplishments of our children, descriptions of our beautiful grandchildren, and our plans for the next phase of life.
I was struck by the perspective that reminiscing produces. Yes, some of the stories took me to places I regretted, but overall, it's amazing how things seem to come together despite life's trials and tribulations. I found that looking back and considering what lies ahead, particularly the future of our children and grandchildren, to be very motivating.
For me, our dialogue created a context of purpose and meaning. It's as if I was at a seminar where the subject was my life and my family offered introspection and analysis. Yes, we had a lot of fun and a shared ton of laughter, but there was a very emotional underpinning that reinforced just how precious life is, and the many reasons we have to be thankful.
The weekend kicked off last Thursday when my sisters, Terry and Bernadette, flew in from Arizona and Kansas City, respectively. Their first order of business was to see Mom. Don't ask me how they did it, but I'm told it took a bit of maneuvering, vaccination documentation, rapid testing and an outdoor setting. Bottom line, Mom saw her children and all parties were delighted. Later, I joined them and my wife at our home for dinner, where we caught-up on everything from the state of the nation to the upcoming game between the Chiefs and Eagles. The groundwork was in place. It was if the time between our last gathering disappeared. We had reconnected and were ready for more.
Last Friday, my brother Chris arrived from California. I last saw him pre-COVID in 2019. The five of us were now back home together in the Garden State. We met at the hotel where they were staying and then went off to dinner at a nearby restaurant. We were joined there by my two sons, their wives and, my 5-year-old grandson. What a night. Stories, jabs, photos and birthday candles. It was the same restaurant where we gathered after our dad's funeral, which gave it special meaning. My grandson Luca was in his glory, making several inquiries to the waiter for the dessert menu while we were still on the appetizers. He ultimately enjoyed his ice cream sundae. The look in his eye as the waiter brought it over was beyond precious.
On Saturday morning, Chris, counseled by our sisters, exercised the same protocols and was able to see Mom. As the youngest of the five siblings, he has a special place in her heart. His visit capped off a memorable couple of days for Mom, which will enjoy a long shelf-life for her.
Saturday afternoon, it was a stop at the Eagles Pro Shop in Cherry Hill so that Chris could get a jersey for Sunday's game, followed by a walk through downtown Haddonfield, lunch and more catching up. But wait, that's too antiseptic – too bland for my family. See, as it turns out, the brewery where we had lunch was holding a contest to celebrate the start of Oktoberfest. A group of women patrons were recruited to participate in a contest where they each had to hold out a full mug of beer straight-armed for as long as they could – no spilling of the beer and no bending of the arm. On a whim, my 60-something twin sisters, the birthday girls, entered the contest. No way would they outlast the clearly younger contestants.
One by one the others folded; spilling beer, bending their arms and just loosing their grips. Incredibly, it came down to my sisters. The crowd was screaming. We were going nuts, chanting their names. Finally, Terry, the more athletic of the twins and my odds-on favorite to win, dropped her arm. Toni, a longtime waitress, won the contest. Unbelievable and what fun. Talk about a family moment that we'll talk about for years.
By Saturday night, it was time for another family dinner, followed by dancing. Something my dad would have done with my sisters. It was a family ritual and I was glad to find a venue that maintained this family tradition.
On Sunday, Chris and I headed for the Eagles game while the girls went their own way. We picked up his son Bailey, who lives in New York City, at 30th Street Station and we were on our way to the Linc. We hit a friend's tailgate and then went into a charged-up stadium. While the game against the 49ers didn't turn out the way we had hoped, Chris, Bailey and I had a great time rooting on the Birds on a beautiful day. The intergenerational dimensions of this family excursion were not lost on me. It was another installment in what was a whirlwind weekend.
There's nothing like a reconnection with loved ones to put life in perspective, particularly siblings whom you've shared so much with over the years. It proved to be an important investment in my well-being, one that will provide me with additional purpose for maintaining a healthy lifestyle so I can enjoy many more of these weekends in the years ahead.
Louis Bezich, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50." Read more from Louis on his website.