Finding friends across the generation gap | Nandell Palmer

I so admire the big-hearted gesture of Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest. Despite his busy schedule, five evenings a week, rain or shine, he finds the time to spend quality time with his mother at one of the city’s adult care homes.

Oftentimes, I feel guilty for being so far away from my parents. Dad lives in New York City, while my mother makes her home in London. When the guilt of not seeing them regularly becomes overwhelming, I just say que sera, sera!

Recently, my father celebrated a milestone birthday. I was very pleased to share in that celebration at his home.

Apart from the pleasantries exchanged and the indulgence of succulent food and drink, I was most touched by the various levels of relationships he maintains with young and old alike.

My father is at least 50 years older than Robert, one of his former co-workers. But the young man considers my old man his best friend. I was floored when I read this for myself in the birthday card he gave my dad.

Robert meets regularly for lunch with Dad and does all kinds of electronic trouble-shooting for him around the house, sans payment.

In a nutshell, the young man has done more for my father than any of his own grandchildren. No wonder Dad calls him his grandson. This act of kindness warms my heart immensely since I am not there to do those things for him.

On the flight back to Seattle, I had the window seat, and a young man occupied the aisle seat, leaving the middle seat vacant.

Cognizant of the fact that nowadays people would rather busy themselves with their iPads, iPhones and other gadgets than engaging in small talk 35,000 feet in the air, I tried to restrain myself. But then behind me, a riveting conversation was going on between two men — one closer to my father’s age, while the other one about 20 years younger than I.

I reflected on my father, and wanted so much to carry on his legacy of amassing friends from all age groups. I didn’t want to miss the chance to have a Robert in my life.

I decided to break the ice, conversing with the young man who told me that he joined the military 10 years ago. He was excited to be heading to Japan for the first time, he said, for a three-year tour of duty. Shortly after basic training, he was thrust into the belly of the beast: Iraq. “That was some welcome!” he joshed. “I hope my entry into Japan will be smooth sailing and problem free.”

The young soldier had a five-hour layover in Seattle before his flight to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. As we alighted the plane, we shook hands.

I wished him a swell time in Japan. He wished me a good time back in Seattle. Did my good wish for him hold up? I may never know.

Based on his estimated time of arrival in Japan, he would have been greeted with the sad news on the ground about the ferocious 9.0 earthquake-induced tsunami that ravaged the region March 11.

Despite this temporary setback, I hope he’s more emboldened to take life’s trials and turn them into triumphs. May he become everything he has aspired to be in the army.

Mayor Priest, Robert and my travel friend have catapulted my awareness to the zenith that relationships are crucial to our survival; they should not be taken lightly.

Relationships can be spawned anytime, anywhere. And they can be gone in a nanosecond. Is it any wonder that I am now on a quest to meet new friends old enough to be my father or mother, and young enough to be my sons or daughters?

When the time is right, I look forward to ripping out a page from our mayor’s book and spend at least two evenings a week with my parents, showering them with some good ol’ TLC.

Striving to become the best Robert to those elderly men and women whose children are across the miles and who need a friend is also my mission. Know that it’s just one telephone call or email away.

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