I believe that in the end, our life filters down to becoming successful at just one thing–and it’s often not what we’ve worked hardest to achieve.
My three grown daughters are my loving best friends and incredible blossoming young women, but I almost never get to see them; and that hurts.
My wife is resilient; she has to be, because it took three years of marriage to see the beauty behind her irony. I no longer take her jokes so deadly personally. But I don’t consider myself a good breadwinner.
For the first time in my life I spend my days doing the work I most enjoy. Unfortunately I still wake up most nights wondering how I’m going to pay the bills and still send some money to my step-daughter in Russia.
Every Saturday for the last four years I’ve called an elderly Swedish lady to see how she’s doing; her polio-twisted body is being roughly dismantled by diabetes and kidney failure. She says my calls are the only thing that keeps her alive.
Like many older men, I’d love to figure out what I’ve really accomplished in my life. So a few days ago I was struck by a line in a lovely BBC film, when a quirky young woman reassures her older, fussy bureaucrat of a lover: “You’re tender and true, and that’s unusual in a man.”
So I thought, maybe that’s enough. Even if I can’t fulfill my full professional promise, or see my girls, or give my wife what she needs and deserves, at least now I can put my finger on one thing I’m successful at.
There are, after all, worse epitaphs than “Tender and true.”
So I believe in the value of my simple desire to make people feel special, every chance I get. It’s nothing I can retire on, and won’t win me any acclaim or success, but it seems to help to warm the hearts of a half-dozen remarkable ladies. And maybe that’s really enough.
This I believe.