Missed Opportunities

Missed Opportunities

 

So I started writing September’s column with a long ramble about the dog days of summer probably because the actual details of my summer are already a blur. What a scorcher, huh?! Oy the weather. This heat is unbearable. It’s a sweat-fest up in here. How did it get to be September already? Seems like just yesterday, I was packing up the down comforters and starting my bikini body regime (it didn’t work, btw). Then early one Friday morning, we received a call that my mother-in-law had died. Nothing like a death in the family to bring you back down to Earth and make you realize how trivial everything else is in comparison. Granted, my mother-in-law was 88 years old and lived a very long, full and happy life—it didn’t hit us out of the blue. We knew it would happen eventually, but somehow it was still a shock. When someone is there day in and day out and then ‘poof’ one day they’re not, it throws you for a loop. Her inevitable passing had been lingering on the horizon for a while—so much that it made it seem like that it would likely never really happen. I was placing bets that she would outlast us all. She was a force of nature—a woman who, in my opinion, had likely looked Death square in the eye on numerous occasions and told him to go packing. She wasn’t ready. Her slow descent became background noise—part of the conversation of daily life. “Mom seems better today. Mom seems to be backsliding today. Mom hasn’t eaten today. Mom ate everything on her plate. Who knows how long Mom will be around. We should plan to spend Christmas with Mom; it could be her last.” I don’t think any of us believed it would happen any time soon. Then the call came and she was gone. Her children lost their Mom. The grandkids lost their Nonnie. I’ve only been in the picture for four years, but during that time, she and I got to know each other. On the news of her passing, however, I couldn’t shake the unexpected feeling of disappointment around all of the conversations we wouldn’t have and all the great stories I had missed out on—and she was full of them. Of course, it also brought to mind all the stuff about my own mortality, living in the present, being mindful, etc., but I just kept coming back to the missed opportunities—which felt like an added layer of loss. I blamed myself for procrastinating and taking for granted that she would always be just a five minute drive away. When life isn’t so busy, I’ll stop by more. Once I stop working full-time, I’ll make it a point to go by a couple of times a week for lunch and a chat. The ‘whens’ and ‘onces’ were not to be and it truly is my loss.

 

My adult mind understands death and grieving. My husband, XXL, and I actually discussed how blessed we feel because we have never really experienced a tragedy of the sort where someone near and dear gets ripped from you unexpectedly as in a fatal car accident or heart attack—or worse—think Dateline. Truly—that is a blessing. I have lost friends my age—and that is painful. I’ve also been to funerals for people much younger than me—children of friends. That is about as horrific as it gets. For days, weeks and months, you walk away thinking that you’ll be more aware of the gift of life and that you won’t take people and loved ones, or your own health, for granted. You’ll work out more, curse less. You’ll eat organic and curb your week day drinking. You’ll be more forgiving and tolerant. You’ll volunteer more. You’ll call your Mom every day just to say hi. You’ll hug your husband every day before you each head out the door. You’ll be kinder and gentler and live with purpose and meaning. You won’t yell at the kids for silly things like leaving their dirty socks on the floor. You’ll pay attention to the spring blooms and wave to the children out playing in the cul de sac. You’ll walk your dog every day and not just when it’s 80 degrees with no humidity. Then life happens and you find yourself prioritizing work and chores and errands ahead of people. You pull into the drive through, order a Filet o’Fish (small fries, please) and curse Ms. Mickey Dees for forgetting the extra ketchup. You put finishing your taxes in front of calling your Dad. You race out the door in the morning, shoving down a toaster waffle and wonder if your husband is still in bed. Hopefully he remembers to feed the dog. Life.

 

So, as the summer ends, I wonder how many other opportunities I’ve missed because I’ve been running at warp speed. Not just of the mega-clearance sale variety, but real, honest opportunities to connect with my fellow humans. How many times have I had my face buried in an electronic device trying to make a social connection and missed a moment with a real live person. How many stories haven’t I heard because I was too busy focusing on running through my never-ending list of errands and chores. These are the moments of life and they are fleeting, especially with those who could really tell us something worth hearing. I know it’s hard to explain to the younger generations, but they really don’t make them like that anymore.

 

RIP, CWB. You are greatly missed.

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