Just back to the UK from my annual fortnight (US: two weeks) in America, visiting family. As CutiePyeGirl says, seeing grandparents and family only once or twice a year is not enough. I agree.
As I reflect on my time there, I offer a few observations.
Healthcare costs have skyrocketed.
People seem to be increasingly affected by health-care costs, whether in monthly insurance payments, co-payments, or deductibles. I’ve heard stories of someone having a heart attack but not calling an ambulance to save the $200 fee, for instance, or going to a clinic instead of the ER (UK: A&E) because it’s cheaper. The NHS is by no means perfect, but the care we’ve received (especially for PyelotBoy) has been reliable and thorough – and free at the point of use (but of course the bill is footed by high taxes).
Pope Francis rocks.
I’ve been impressed by the new head of the Catholic church, and my heart was “strangely warmed,” to employ a Methodist saying, when I saw him in the flesh at St. Peter’s Square with my parents and family. I attended my parents’ Catholic church when Stateside and appreciated the influence he’s already having at the local level.
Minnesotans are nice.
Okay, so not all Minnesotans are nice every moment of every day, but on the whole, nice they are. I had to readjust my social interactions, remembering, for instance, that while out on a walk around the lake, one does actually acknowledge the person walking toward you. Waiters are nice; department store clerks are (usually) nice; of course friends and family are nice. Leading me to…
Relationships are the best.
CutiePyeGirl feels the separation from her US family deeply (well, we all do, but she shows it most tangibly). Each night since returning home, she’s been tearful and almost inconsolable about being separated from grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles. I conveyed to her what a lovely Englishwoman, who lives in America and has a daughter in England and a son in Hong Kong, said to me before I got married, that now I’d have one foot on each side of the Atlantic. Loving deeply means we grieve deeply when separated, but closing ourselves to grief means closing ourselves to love.
I didn’t get to see as many friends as I would have liked to see, but I got to reconnect with my “Fantabulous Friends Forever,” those women with whom I went to high school and whom I’ve stayed close to for so many years. We’ve experienced heartbreak, sorrow, and drama along with experiencing joy, but our friendships have stayed strong through the seasons.
After all, what matters more than people (and the word of God)?