List the compliments you want to give to others:
When I want to give compliments, I do. I’m pretty bold about it. If I have regrets, they go back thirty years. Then, extreme shyness often kept me from speaking up. Thankfully, I have had, most often, the opportunity to make up for it.
I had the chance to tell each of my parents how important they were in my life, and how hard I know they tried, all their lives, to do the right thing, and the solid foundation they provided, and all the precious, joyous memories I have, thanks to them. Family and friends hear frequent praise from me, for their determination, abilities, looks, parenting, stubbornness, conversation skills, intelligence, hard work…whatever comes along that warrants a pat on the back.
Loss has given me a keen sense of how important it is to take advantage of each moment, and to not let things go unsaid. So, I let compliments fly, whenever I see a reason. I voice appreciation to customers for a nice shirt, a good haircut, an excellent choice of paint colors, or for figuring out a plumbing problem on their own. I commend other employees for their hard work and a job well-done. I offer honest acclaim to other artists and other writers, from a position of knowing how much heart and soul goes into the process, and of knowing how important it is to hear it.
Though my dogs hear an occasional, “Not good,” my conversations with them – much like conversations with my children when they were small – center around what they are doing right. Compliments form the basis of all of our best discussions, from “Good girl, pee outside,” whenever that happens, to “Good dogs, protecting our family,” as they madly bark at the County road truck when it drives by. Their belly rubs and ear scratches are accompanied by murmurs of “Such a nice dog,” and “So pretty…”
So, I have a very abbreviated list today, of the compliments I wish I had given others, and didn’t.
- On the first day back at school after Christmas vacation when I was in the seventh grade, when mohair sweaters were the big fashion item, and all of our parents had scrambled and saved to provide them for Christmas gifts, every single girl came in wearing a mohair cardigan in a pastel shade of pink or yellow or blue. Except for Dee Lynn Hathaway. She made an entrance with a red, sharply-pleated wool skirt and a prim white blouse topped by a deep red, cable knit mohair sweater. I think every girl gasped. All of a sudden, our prized and coveted best-present-ever paled in comparison. Why hadn’t any of the rest of us thought of red? Why hadn’t I? I’m sure Dee Lynn knew how stunning she looked; maybe some of the other girls even told her. I didn’t, but I should have. In more than fifty years, I have never forgotten it.
- Mrs. Price, the mother of my best friend, made a huge impression on me, growing up. From the attractive “babushkas” that she’d wear to cover her head in church, to her sweet smile and musical laugh, to the hamburger buns that she steamed before serving, Mrs. Price was a valued bonus to my friendship with her daughter. I’m sure she knew it. I wish I had told her.
- My father-in-law, Jack should have gotten more compliments from me. He always knew I loved him and appreciated him, but we didn’t talk about things like that. He influenced my life in a thousand different ways. I hope he knew it.
The compliments I want to give – or wish I had given – are no longer possible. My chance is gone. Which is a reminder to me, always, to not let those chances go by.