Life's not fair, I heard my mother utter from the time I was a wee girl. Those words were quite inflammatory to the child who longed to have the very best. Life's not fair, I stated when I arrived home after taking inventory of a friend's pile of Christmas gifts. I cried those words when my mother picked up my older brother from school early so they could have a special lunch. Life's not fair, I mumbled into my pillow when my best friend deserted me for someone else.
No, it's not, my mother said.
No, it's not, I learned.
I remember the first time I felt the beauty in unfairness. It was Christmas morning. My brother was a freshman in college and I was in the eighth grade. I had opened my main gift, a fancy boom box, and he began to unwrap his. I had already scouted the driveway for the new car he was wanting and needing, his hand me down VW Bug often broke down to and fro on his treks to USC. I looked and there was none. Now, he opened his package, the best for last and it was a car cover and when he said thank you and smiled, they told him he should check outside. We flew out the door and it was there, hidden from a little sister known to spill secrets.
We jumped in and abandoned my parents that morning. We headed from our country house to show our town cousins. He, in his blue robe, and I, barefoot and in pajamas. I still remember my own giddiness at seeing my brother's gift. I shared his joy and the fact that life wasn't fair never even entered my mind.
That was the last Christmas we would open presents together at home, unaware of the cancer on the horizon. Our lives were perfect and we didn't even know it. Our life was more than fair for so very long and we didn't even stop to be appreciative. The next year we spent Christmas in a hotel down the street from my brother's hospital room. I got skis. Adam didn't open his gifts.
The next Christmas we were a family of three and again, life wasn't fair. It's not fair. It's not fair when it really matters and when it really doesn't. Someone will always have more, have better, have it easier, have siblings, have it simpler, and so, where does that leave you? It leaves me embracing unfairness in a life that is more than I have ever deserved and it leaves me reminding my own children of how blessed and fortunate they are to have one another. I remind them, that they are right, life is not fair and that's not always a bad thing. After all, that philosophy gifted me joy the last Christmas at home with my brother. I'm so thankful to have that memory of excitement not sulking, joy not jealousy, and loving not longing. Yes, somewhere along the way the lesson had stuck and thankfulness had taken its' place.