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The Best Cup of Coffee. Ever.

I had a difficult time picking a title for this article. My choices were:

  • I deeply hated my brother-in-law
  • The best cup of coffee. Ever.
  • 1500 Anytime Minutes

couplesWe met in late Spring of 2000 and I instantly felt a brotherly connection with Matt. We were both outgoing. Approximately the same age. Relatively tall. A bit “heavier” than average. And we both had lighter complexions than our girlfriends, who were both filipino... and sisters.

Friends and family would often confuse us from a distance of more than 10 feet. And oddly enough, our similarities were just one more reason that I thought I should be in a relationship with his girlfriend’s sister.

Matt married into the family in 2002. I followed suit in 2004, because apparently it’s bad luck for the same family to have two weddings within a 12-month period. (Let me guess — a father and his wallet made that one up.)

It would be dishonest to say that Matt and I ever developed a truly deep friendship. We never called each other to hang out and drink beer while watching the big game. We never helped each other paint a living room or to fix a broken sprinkler line. And we never sought each other’s advice after a really bad day, perhaps like other close friends do.

lumpyaBut we did get together quite often at family events and birthday parties, etc. And when you are part of a filipino family, you go to parties for your cousin, and your cousin’s cousin, and your cousin’s sister-in-law’s second cousin twice removed. Oh, and you eat and eat and eat, so as not to offend the host and hostess.

It would come as no surprise that an immediate side-effect of filipino parties is an ever-expanding waistline. Put yourself in front of unlimited pancit, lumpya, and chicken adobo two or three times a week and you will understand within a few bites.

During the last ten years, Matt and I have participated in no fewer than three weight-loss contests along with our wives, friends, and other family members. The number on the scale has been up and down right alongside life’s joys and challenges.

And boy oh boy have there been challenges. Let’s just say "some things happened" in late 2011. I’ll spare you the details.

I was upset, steaming mad, and frustrated. There’s no other way to say it, but because of what happened, I deeply hated my brother-in-law. I did everything in my power to avoid contact with him and his family. Whenever there was a party, somehow I always had a previously-scheduled appointment and just couldn’t make it to the family event. This went on for most of 2012. And no part of it was fun or comfortable. This avoidance couldn’t go on forever. It was negatively effecting me, my wife, and my children.

On Sunday, October 14th of last year, I drove to Whispering Winds to work the last day of the men’s Cursillo weekend. It wasn’t good timing at all. My stomach hurt. My mother was visiting from out of town. And I had so many other “important” things to do. But like many Cursillistas say, “You go to the mountain when the time is right.”

firepitI found myself in Founder’s Hall at Mass. During the homily, Fr. Gil distributed small sheets of paper and writing pens. To the best of my memory, we were instructed to write down one or two things that were bothering us... or challenges we’d like to tackle in our lives. Then, we were to stand up, get in line, walk outside, and throw our written words into a small, makeshift barbecue pit. Somehow, even though my eyes were saturated and dripping, I remember seeing my paper flare up. And as I walked back to my seat, I was a little more optimistic about the future.

Within days I wrote to my brother-in-law and invited him to meet me at a restaurant that was close to his house. We agreed to meet after work later that week. And while I was thrilled to finally take some action on the matter, I thought to myself, “Oh crap, what have I done? How are we going to have a serious conversation... at Coco’s!”

I arrived a few minutes early to catch my breath, and sat down at a booth near the entrance.

When I saw Matt walk in the front door, my feelings were a combination of 1) excitedly meeting a blind date for the first time, and 2) remember the physical fights my brother and I had when we were 10 years old. I really didn’t know what to expect. Was there going to be a white-knuckle throw-down in front of the bakery’s pie case?

He sat down and we both ordered coffee. Black, of course, because we were dieting.

coffeeshopAfter the typical “hey, how’s it going” chit chat was out of the way, I jumped right in, “Matt, I just wanted to apologize for how I’ve been acting this year...” (I had every right to point the finger and throw blame, but I knew that my response to the problem was 50% of the ongoing problem.)

I figured it would be better to take some blame first, rather than get angry and attack. You could feel the tension begin to fade away immediately.

Our conversation went very well, thanks be to God. We cleared the air on a number of issues. And once in awhile there were tears on both sides. We talked so long that there was a shift-change and a new waitress introduced herself!

It was the best cup of coffee. Ever.

We wrapped up or three-hour visit, and made our way to the parking lot. Matt and I couldn’t believe what had just happened. We had talked more in one night than the 10 previous years combined.

People don’t talk much anymore.

My cell phone plan comes with 1500 “anytime” minutes per month. For the readers who don't have a cell phone, let me explain what that means: As part of my monthly fee, I am given 1500 minutes to use my cell phone during business hours, essentially.

Plus, we have four phones on the same account, SHARING the same pool of 1500 minutes. What’s interesting is that a few short years ago, this was a serious issue. The four users really needed to pay CLOSE attention to their usage, to make sure that we would not blow past the limit and pay significantly higher rates.

chartThese days, however, the four of us don’t come anywhere near the 1500-minute limit. Other forms of communication like email, text messaging, tweets, and facebook messages often suffice, and so the phone calls just aren’t made.

You might agree that the changing technology, while extremely fast and easy, is really pulling us apart from one another and creating superficial relationships. Rather than calling someone and having a meaningful conversation, we tweet. And instead of sitting down and visiting with a close friend, we instagram a picture of our pie!

Assuming you sleep 8 hours each night, you are left with 28,800 minutes per month to spend face-to-face with other human beings. How many of those minutes are on YOUR plan?

Thank you, Fr. Gil, for the inspiration at Mass to contact Matt.

By the way, Matt and I are NOT friends on facebook. But I’m fine with that. I’ll take a coffee break with him instead of a 'status update' any day of the week.

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©2012 San Diego English Speaking Cursillo

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