August 31, 2010

Tales by Triplett – The Important Things in Life

Triplett,PatrickBy Patrick Triplett

I’ve learned a lot during my 60-plus years on this earth. I’ve learned that missing a two-foot putt isn’t the end of the world. Nor is a last-second Iowa Hawkeye loss. I’ve learned that it’s not necessary to call 911 when the lawnmower catches on fire, and it’s not worth yelling obscenities in the parking lot after locking the keys in the car. But mostly what I’ve learned is that worrying about the little things in life is nothing more than a waste of time.

When I was laid off at the company I worked for at the age of 60, I felt like my life was over. I felt old and worthless. It took some time, but I came to the realization that everything happens for a reason. As the saying goes, “When one door shuts, another one opens.” That has been true in my case. I am able to do something now that I wished I could have done all my life – write. To write about people, places, events, memories, friends, and above all, family.

Mostly what I have learned is to take the time to appreciate the things in life that I had always taken for granted – like kids. My wife and I raised three sons who all turned out to be great adults of whom we are proud. And yet I regret missing out on what could have been some everlasting memories. I was too busy caring about my job, trying for that promotion, and worrying about saving enough money for the boys’ college funds and our retirement.

If I had it to do all over again I would spend much more time enjoying my kids. Especially during that small but precious window of time when they discovered the world around them and were old enough to comment on their observations, while young enough to still think mom and dad were cool.

It is only now that I realize how special kids are at that age. They are loving, sincere, inquisitive and thoroughly honest. Sometimes painfully so, as my friend Patty Roche recently found out. When she turned 60, she asked her grandson Jack one day, “Does Nannie look old?” To which Jack promptly answered, “Yes.”

Somewhat taken aback, Patty then proceeded to ask her grandson if his Grandpa John looked old. Although John was the same age as Patty and had a full head of gray hair, Jack calmly replied, “No.”

She then asked Jack if his other grandparents looked old. “No,” he said. Now Patty was getting concerned. Why did her grandson look upon her as old and not others her age? She began to regret having asked him the question in the first place when he looked up at her with those innocent deep blue eyes and said, “Nannie, when are you going to get new again?”

Patty couldn’t help but smile, and share the story with her friends. For those are the moments to cherish. Those are the moments when we realize that a child is a priceless gift that we should treasure. That we should cling to every moment and savor it, for it is gone before we know it.

I was going for a walk one afternoon when I came across a young boy standing by his bike. He had a worried look on his face so I decided to stop and ask him if he was OK. “See that tower, mister?” he said, pointing to the water tower that had stood in our neighborhood for years. “If that falls, we’re all gonna drown.”

Obviously someone, maybe an older brother, tried to scare him by telling him the tower was filled with water and that if it should fall over, major flooding would result. In the past, I might have kept walking, oblivious to his problem. But I took the time to explain to him that the tower had been there since I was his age, showed him the pillars that supported it, and convinced him that those pillars would keep us safe.

“You promise?” he said.

“I promise,” I answered. And off he went on his bike, content. While it was only a brief moment, it was one I will always remember. I made his day a little better, and in return, he made mine a little more meaningful.

I have two granddaughters and a grandson. I have learned to appreciate them for what they are – a gift from God. They are something that money cannot buy. One day several years ago, my granddaughter Allison, who was about the same age as Patty’s grandson Jack, said to me, “Papa, we’ll always be friends.” I wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it in my wallet. I take it out and read it every day.

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