A few nights ago, after spending the majority of my day on the phone doing what I could to help get my dad situated with hospice while also trying to complete my work day as reliably as possible, I walked into the house completely worn out from everything that had already taken place that day. My husband and I still had a to-do list to complete before the evening was over, and the fun was just getting started.
Inconveniences wouldn’t be called inconveniences if they showed up at the appropriate time.
Drew met me as soon as I walked inside and said we had a little problem. Our refrigerator/freezer is stacked with the freezer drawer on the bottom, and it had been left partially open the night before which caused everything in it to thaw, leaving a huge puddle of the awfullest smelling liquid “substance” in the middle of our hardwood kitchen floor.
A few years ago, I probably would have been upset about the freezer being left open. I would have panicked about bags and BAGS of frozen fruits and vegetables we had to throw out, the floors potentially being damaged by all the liquid, and having to clean up the mess in our house that had just been cleaned top to bottom.
Instead, my husband and I laughed with one another about how we had talked about cleaning out the freezer, and on the bright side, the mess took care of that for us. We got to work, throwing out the things that weren’t salvageable and setting out the steaks, ground beef and meats that were still cold. We planned the week’s meals around the items we could save, and then we cleaned up the mess like nothing had happened and continued on to finish our “chores” for the evening.
This next part of the story seems too ironic to be true, but…life, right? This past weekend, we drove to Tennessee, to spend time with my sweet dad. Life looks a whole lot different now than it used to when we’d head North. We lost my mom suddenly in May of 2020, and my dad has been fighting a terminal cancer diagnosis for a little over five years. He stopped treatment less than two weeks ago, and my siblings and I have been having family meals every weekend so he can be surrounded by many of those who love him. Sunday morning, the day we were expecting twenty people for lunch, I opened the massive 6-feet-tall, oversized, upright deep freezer to find EVERYTHING thawed and melting from the door being left partially opened. Twice in one week, friends!
When I think about how my past self used to react to these inconveniences, I think about the time I wasted on stress when I could have been laughing about the circumstances or continuing to spend time loving on those most important to me. Thankfully, I’ve grown since then. With the mess at Dad’s, I simply shut the freezer door, finished cooking and sat back down to visit because life is short and time is always limited, whether that reality is staring you in the face or whether it’s something you don’t yet realize.
What I didn’t have time for is frustration. What I did have time for is to create another memory with my family. I had time to hear my dad laugh again, to see him visit with his sisters, with my brother and sisters, and with his nieces, nephews and grandchildren. After we ate, my aunt and I got to work just like my husband and I did a few nights before, and we cleaned out the freezer, creating another funny memory to think about in the future.
I think it’s safe to say there isn’t one person reading this who hasn’t been presented with similar choices about how to react when something goes awry. A spilled drink. A broken plate, glass or platter. A charred meal. If you host frequently, live with children, or—if you’re human—it’s inevitable that something will go haywire, you will hit a speed bump (or two), and you will have the choice to let it ruin your day and the day of those you love, or to simply laugh, readjust and let it become a funny memory.
I play with my grandmother about the time she and I were cleaning my parents’ house while trying to meal-prep to make their load a little lighter after my dad had a liver resection surgery. We had been working all day, and we were nearly finished when my grandmother pulled a roast out of the oven. In a matter of seconds, she put the roast on top of the oven, and then it exploded. The dish sent shards of glass, roast and carrots all over the freshly-cleaned kitchen. I have no clue what we ended up having for supper that night, but I can remember laughing with my grandmother about how neither of us knew carrots could fly that far. We laughed enough for it to still be something we laugh about today.
One of the greatest lessons that could ever be learned as a hospitality giver is how to let the minor things stay in the “minor leagues,” while focusing on the major things that matter. Hospitality isn’t something we just share with a guest in our home, either. We practice it with our spouses and children, too. When a drink is accidentally spilled and you see those sweet little eyes looking at you to see how you will react, let them see a smile and hear your reassurance that it’s just a little setback, and if a guest comes in during a hard rain and gets mud on the carpet, let them know they matter more than the carpet by how you respond.
Broken dishes are nothing more than just broken dishes. Carpets can be cleaned. Burned food can be replaced.
Memories cannot be recreated.