“Welcome! Stay as long as you’d like.” ?

I love my family, I’m the one who extended the invitation.

“Yes!” I said, “I’m looking forward to having the two of you. Find time that works for you, and let me know. I’ll be here!”

...raising one of many glasses during the course of her visit.

…raising one of many glasses during the course of her visit.

My Uncle Steve and Aunt Bec, both retired and nearing 70, were visiting from Polk City, Florida. They were excited to see me, and I them. Although it had been a dream of theirs, neither had been to California.

I have the space, I’m centrally located and I wanted to make this trip happen for them. I said to myself, “Why not?”

I could hear my grandmother, “All Christians are called to hospitality–we never know when we’re entertaining angels.”

I entertained ‘angels’ for 23 days. Yep, Uncle Steve and Aunt Bec – ‘blessed me’ with a visit of more than 3 weeks. A surprise they waited to share after they landed at SFO.

"Nick, I wanna see the Golden Gate Bridge." Wednesday, October 5th 2016

“Nick, I wanna see the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Wednesday, October 5th 2016

I can do this. 

I really enjoy having dinner guests and houseguests, most of the time, assuming I’m not headed out of town the next day or fighting to make a deadline.
But I’ve been startled a few times at how my patience and generosity begin to run very, very thin when guests stay for more than a couple of nights. Even the dearest friends. I start measuring what I’m giving; I start resenting the extra cleaning and cooking; I lose interest in thinking of good conversation topics, even though there is always so much heart-to-heart catching up that could be done.

Steve is a Duke grad - but spent time in the 70's on the Berkeley campus.... (he has stories to tell)

Steve is a Duke grad – but spent time in the 70’s on the Berkeley campus…. (he has stories to tell)

We have an expression in the South, which is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Houseguests–like fish–begin to smell after three days.” [And often added in at the end “and need to be pitched out.”] This one’s best quoted in a thick southern accent, followed by “bless his/her heart.”  And the South is known for hospitality!
But the reality is some houseguests ask to stay longer and need to stay longer than 2 nights/3 days, and I would like to find ways to pace myself so that I can be patient and generous to the end.

Aunt Bec & Uncle Steve visit San Francisco for the first time! October 2016

Aunt Bec & Uncle Steve visit San Francisco for the first time! October 2016

At the heart of the matter is that houseguests temporarily set up their personal shop in another’s primary territory: Aunt Bec LIVED at my kitchen table and Uncle Steve found my living room sofa – at the TV, the perfect spot to park himself most of the day.

In contrast to secondary territories (like workplaces) and public territories (like stores), this is typically a cherished, personal territory where, admittedly, I have a high degree of personal control over an extended period of time.  This, in combination with predictable routines, norms, and roles, reduces my stress and makes my home a secure environment to recharge my mind and body.

I love my family. 

Each day, I came home to fresh home-cooked meals, washed laundry and loving arms genuinely interested in holding me, listening to me and the adventures of life in “the big city”.

Yes, their routines interfered with mine. Yes, their presence restricted the normal uses of my home space.  Maybe Ben was right; a few days we can tolerate, and anything more than that can be stressful.

Whereas 23 days was a long time, we settled into a routine. A familiar one unique to family members who know and love each other. I had my aunt and uncle for 23 days. After taking them back to SFO, I started to miss them. Life is fleeting and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. I want more time with them and I was fortunate to have the resources and space, to make that happen. I had a crash-course in “learning to share your space with aging relatives” and discovered along the way that even 23 days of “aging fish” isn’t all that bad. ?