This is a rant about bad manners because I’m irritated and it’s the only thing I can think to write about today. It’s also an homage to a family I adore. Maybe those two things shouldn’t be happening in the same place; that is the point of this post.
I. The Homage
I had dinner with some fascinating people last night. She’s a retired Air Force colonel who did finance-y stuff for the Department of Defense. He’s a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew scary-looking helicopters, and lots of other helicopters, for decades. Even in retirement, they’re active in the community of the U.S. Air Force Academy, sponsoring cadets and helping with fundraising efforts. In their home, they each have cases full of insignia from their long military careers. For a person who loves talking to strangers, dinner with this couple is a gold mine.
But they’re not strangers. They’re actually the in-laws of one of my dearest friends. And they—let’s call them “The Folks”—are some of the loveliest people I’ve ever encountered. I met them last fall, when I was helping organize a big do-it-yourself effort to decorate their son’s wedding to my friend. While the young adults were all hunched over the dining room table with glue guns and decoupage, The Folks arrived at the home we called “Base Ops” and immediately grabbed the grandchildren and kept them entertained.
Despite The Folks’ obvious leadership capabilities, they willingly deferred to me, as commander of decor, and repeatedly sought marching orders:
“Do you need anything?”
“What can I do to help?”
“Has everyone eaten? What can we bring to feed the troops?”
They basically ran a whole support staff operation, without ever actually being asked to do so. Hanging with a military family is nothing if it’s not efficient.
I could go on and on about how wonderful it was to spend the week with that family, but I don’t want to get on a tangent. It’s worth mentioning, however, that The Folks have six adult children between the two of them, all of which are married or engaged. That means twelve in total. And all twelve were every bit as kind and lovely as The Folks. Speaking of folks, the Lt. Col.’s first wife (birth mother to four of the six) is also a huge force in the family—sassy, loving, kind, and still very close to her ex-husband and the stepmother to her children. She was on the scene for the whole wedding week as well and there was nothing but love and friendship between her and The Folks. That is only one example of the many ways in which this family radiates inclusivity. It’s stunning.
After hanging with The Folks and their kin for the week of my friend’s wedding, it became obvious to me that good parenting had a lot to do with why that family is so wonderful.
Imagine my joy, then, when I heard that my girlfriend’s husband would be in the States this week, visiting his parents about an hour from my home. He invited me to join them for dinner and I was over the moon. Since the wedding, I had regretted that I hadn’t been able to spend more time getting to know The Folks. They were so kind to me then and so helpful, but I had been absorbed in my wedding duties and I’d had limited capacity for chitchat.
Last night, I drove down to their home and joined The Folks, their son, and their niece for dinner. Over dinner, we chatted about their children, The Folks’ own love story, their views on marriage, and our shared views on family. We went back to their house afterward and we chatted some more—granddaughters, model helicopters, weddings, and so on. I had to ask some stupid questions about military insignia because it’s all pretty foreign to me, but they were happy to indulge me. It was exactly the kind of meandering, fascinating conversation I love, with the added touch that it was with a family so closely connected to me by way of my girlfriend.
On the drive home, I reflected on what an honor it was to have spent the evening with them. I thought about how happy I was that my girlfriend married into such a wonderful group of people, and how grateful I was that they are so willing to treat me like one of their own, even though they barely know me. I got a bit choked-up. I was overcome with emotion.
II. The Rant
Now I’m going to reveal my inner teenager.
I got home from dinner and decided to do something to acknowledge my feelings of reverence. Naturally, I immediately got on Facebook to add The Folks as friends and to post a few words about the evening.
My post quickly received a few likes. And then there was a comment from a friend of a friend, mentioning the many collective years of active duty military experience in the family. It was sweet.
And then there was a disapproving comment about the current leadership in the U.S.
And then there was something about the relationship between private contractors and the administration.
And then there was a retort.
And thus, my admittedly teenagerish homage to these wonderful people was hijacked and driven straight into that heap of everything that is wrong with the Internet—cat videos, smut, and political rants. Ugh. At its worst, the web can be a toxic landfill. I don’t want my heartfelt sentiments to smell like it.
III. The Lesson
To be clear, I just wanted to say that I was grateful to have had dinner with The Folks. I think that message failed. But now, lesson learned, I’ll sit down and do what I should have done in the first place: I’ll write a Thank You card to The Folks directly, and mail it to their home—like a damn grown-up.