September 27, 2019
I got a firsthand reminder last weekend of the power of social relationships and their abilities to provide perspective on life and contribute to our well-being. My younger brother Chris, who lives in California, came into town for a visit. He works for a major insurance company and decided to come home to South Jersey in advance of meetings in the midwest.
I’m the oldest of five children and my brother is the youngest with thirteen years separating us. As you can guess, with that much of an age gap, I was out of the house and off to college when he was barely five. Consequently, we didn’t share many of the typical sibling experiences that come with growing up under the same roof. Over the years our families stayed connected despite our bi-coastal residencies.
The occasional family event maintained the relationship. We watched our children grow during trips to Orange County and Chris's family visited us at the Jersey Shore. But these events never quite compensated for the missed childhood together.
Yet, as we have aged – and once Chris entered the 50-plus age bracket with me – we've seemingly begun to grow closer, particularly as we now share the same experiences of being empty nesters with adult children. Independently, we’ve both gravitated to healthy lifestyles and other common interests like watching NFL football and the Eagles. Most recently, the passing of our Dad and the diminishment of our mom’s health have brought us closer as we’ve grappled with the emotional and logistical dimensions of these milestones.
So, I was thrilled to see him and catch up. When he arrived on Friday night our plans for a quick dinner together turned into a great family gathering. By chance, we ran into my son (my brother is his godfather) and daughter-in-law at a local restaurant.
They were there with my son's friend – a great guy – and his wife. My son's friend spent so much time in our home when the kids were growing up that I call him my third son. The plan was to see my actual son Saturday night but the chance meeting worked out great. The conversation flowed like crazy from one topic to another, making for a terrific evening that really kicked off the weekend in family style.
The next morning Chris and I visited our 89-year old mom. Overall, she’s doing relatively well but there are challenges. In the last couple weeks, circumstances have prompted us to get her a home health aide. Nevertheless, she loved seeing her “other” son and spending time with him. I felt like our time together with her had a bonding effect as we watched and reflected. One of our sisters, who lives locally and helps out with mom, also was there, further adding to the family focus.
We spent Saturday night out at dinner with my sister and the same son and daughter-in-law that we had bumped into on Friday night. My mom is just not in a position to navigate an evening out at a restaurant. The conversation included updates on the kids and discussion about their future plans. I really appreciate the relationship that Chis has with my son. They have a great rapport that extends our connection.
As much as Friday and Saturday were packed with great times, Sunday was the height of the weekend. Eagles vs. Lions, a tailgate, and sideline passes for the pre-game warm-ups. Everything was great until the game started. I won’t dwell on the issue. I think most everyone in the Philadelphia region knows that it was an ugly, ugly loss. But the sun was shining and even a bad loss couldn’t diminish the time together routing for our Eagles.
On Sunday night, we finished with a post-game dinner at my house. My wife was back from the shore and put together a fantastic meal. My sister brought Mom over to our home – an earlier time and the logistical flexibility of our home made it possible. It all worked out great. Mom was particularly happy after missing Saturday’s dinner.
Chris flew out of town early Monday morning. He sent a beautiful text expressing his thanks and confirming the great time that we had all shared. It spanned just three days but the memories will last a lifetime. And it provided the impetus for my wife and I to get out to California to visit in the not-too-distant future.
The lesson in social motivation? The connection to healthy behavior?
Well, hopefully you see that my weekend story is symbolic, representing the social and emotional dynamics that life brings to many of us in the 50-plus stage of life. Coping with aging parents, maintaining sibling relationships in a bi-coastal world, carrying family experiences to the next generation through our children, and pulling together as a family when times get tough – these experiences shape us, give us purpose and a reason to stay strong.
They have nothing to do with diet and exercise but everything to do with the drive and determination necessary to stay fit and take care of ourselves. It gives us a reason to get out of bed when we don’t feel like it, put down the donut and do all of the little things that add up to big things for the people we love and care about.
So, indulge me with my weekend tale of a couple of guys who are finding some new meaning in their lives and enjoying every minute of it. I hope it helps you find yours. It may be right in front of you.Louis Bezich, senior vice president of strategic alliances 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."