About ten years ago, we moved to our first house, next door to a wonderful elderly couple, Ben and Macy. But all was not well. Macy had advanced liver disease. Yet you’d never guess it, she was always such a trooper.
One day, while visiting them on their front porch, I spied Ben pointing at his overweight across-the-street neighbor, with his back to us, bending over to pick up something in his front yard. Well, let’s just say that after we saw the full moon rising in the middle of the day, we laughed till tears came to our eyes.
That very next day Macy died, but I’ve always been thankful for that bit of lowbrow comedy. You could say it taught me a lesson, to appreciate every moment, but you’d be wrong. Due to a particularly hard head and a penchant for self-pity, that’s a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over. In fact, it wasn’t much later I had to relearn it once again.
At 10 my daughter was a cute, blond haired, long-legged sprite who was obsessed by mysteries. Every night when we took our dogs out for their last walk, she’d have a pad and pen ready to copy the tag numbers of any “suspicious” cars. In her mind, fueled by Nancy Drew mysteries and film noir flicks I’d shared with her, just about every car and pedestrian was suspicious. To her, our neighborhood was awash in a crime wave of epic proportions.
You’d think that I as more-or-less an adult would appreciate having this time with my daughter, especially remembering my own teen years that I spent with a perpetual frown on my face. She wasn’t a teenager yet. She wanted to spend time with me. And, by golly, wasn’t it kind of cute what she was doing?
Yes, but no. Really, she was driving me crazy. The truth is I’m not good late at night. And these walks took place after 10 when my wife has noticed more than once a look on my face resembling Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining.
Inevitably, one night, my patience ran out. My daughter, full of excitement, was jotting down another suspicious car’s tag number, postulating its evil intent when I blew up. After my harsh words and her tears, our nightly walks didn’t exactly stop, but they were never the same. I kick myself now for it.
Yet change is inevitable. Now as fall leaves crackle under my feet, I walk with one dog, no long-legged sprite jotting down tag numbers tags along. My daughter, now 20, has a good job and lives on her own. Macy, filled with a lovely spirit, left us as so many of my relatives have.
I can’t bring the past back, even if I wanted, but I hope I’ve gleaned something from it — namely, to appreciate the here and now. And about that there really shouldn’t be any mystery.
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