I speak from personal experience when I say that too many people spend too much time collecting regrets. It’s a passive hobby and most of us don’t even realize we’re doing it but still end up with sizeable collections. I got a big reminder of mine on Friday.
So, sadness alert. Today I’m posting on a somber note, so feel free to hit SKIP to enjoy silliness later in the week. Unfortunately, my cousin Danny Lee in Virginia died suddenly yesterday at the age of 63, which is young for someone who appeared to be in good health. He had been getting ready for a golf tournament and went down to the basement to do something. His 21-year-old son, Sam, found him on the floor, which is a tough thing to deal with for someone so young. (My mom died when I was 33 and it knocked me for a loop for years.) Coincidentally, Danny Lee was around 21 when his dad, my Uncle Frankie, also died suddenly. Danny was with him when it happened, and he never really got over it. (I hope this doesn’t turn into a family tradition for them.)
In retrospect, I loved visiting Virginia when I was a little kid and hero-worshipped Danny Lee. He was older and the only male first cousin on that side of the family (Tons of girl cousins, whom I love, but it’s a different bond).
Out of sight; out of mind
Unfortunately, when we moved to Arizona, we kind of became disconnected from the Virginians. You’d have thought we’d moved to the moon. Oh, my mom talked to my aunts a lot and put us on the telephone, but I’ve only been back to Virginia once, and that was when my Pawpaw died when I was eleven. Weddings and family gatherings — the Arizonans weren’t there for any of them. I always regretted this but did nothing to rectify it as I got older. My dad did go back on his own once or twice late in life and griped about the hassles of traveling. I have to credit Facebook, that hunting ground for data miners and Russian propagandists, for helping us reestablish familial bonds, so I guess I owe Zuckerberg for that.
The problem with the U.S. is that it’s so big that we’ve got a built-in excuse not to visit because of distance, cost and time. I could blame my dad because he was not a traveler and made no effort to take us back. My mom, on the other hand, took us kids to the UK to see our family there (which I enjoyed because it was all boy cousins around my age). But I did become an adult with free will and the means to travel, so dad isn’t completely at fault. But I inherited dear old dad’s tendency to stay local (i.e. sit on the couch). I even took a 20-year gap between trips to the UK.
The last visit
Anyway, I only saw Danny Lee once more when he came out for my mom’s funeral in 2000. He was older but still the same guy I looked up to. We promised to visit again, but we didn’t though we spoke on the phone occasionally. I kept meaning to go out to Virginia, but life kept getting in the way. Just the other day, I was once again thinking I need to schedule a trip. But now when I do visit, he won’t be there.
RIP Danny Lee, a lot of people loved you and you’ll be missed.
If there is a silver lining, I spoke to Danny’s sister Darla and my cousin Sandi. We’ve all resolved to get the family together to share stories and enjoy each other’s company. It needs to happen. There are generations I have not met.
So, I’m determined I need to stop lolling around like I’m an immortal with time to squander. Life rushes by, but we don’t realize it as we focus on the minutia of our day-to-day rituals as if the world is immutable. I’ve missed out on a lot with the family. It sucks that it takes a shock like this to shake me into action. But I think a lot of us are like that.
So, my challenge to myself — and to you — is to take the time to renew important relationships. Live life. Chase your dreams. Enjoy your days. Don’t surrender to the bullshit. Do something meaningful. Get out and do those important things (both big and little) you put off for days, months, decades, forever.
Life shouldn’t be about collecting regrets. Memories are far more valuable.
Not depressed enough? Here’s a recent post touching on regret — The Disappearing Spanish Girl
Photo courtesy of renaissance man, Alex Szymanek (all rights reserved by him).