There are times, happenings, even moments, in our lives that truly change their courses. When this thought recently occurred to me, I looked back on my 76 years and thought about the most significant in my own.
Likely the first was when my father died. Funny, that Sunday he’d called and asked if we were going to come for our normal dinner visit. We weren’t planning to do so that particular weekend, but there was something in his voice. So we went. Next morning, early, I got the call from my mother: “Your father’s dead.”
It was a long ride to their home, out in the country at the other end of the county. And I remember hoping that maybe, just maybe, she was wrong. This was just a mistake. But it wasn’t, and when I finally returned home I broke down. It wasn’t so much his passing as the thought that he would never get to see more of our ten-month-old son’s life. As Gil Scott-Heron wrote, “We are the ones who tie our fathers to our sons.” And for me, that tie had now been broken.
I’ve been fired twice. The first time really doesn’t count, because the company I was working for was going down the drain anyway, and it was more of a layoff. When they finally stabilized they called me back as a consultant. It was that second firing that really got to me. I was fired from my own business. After rescuing a guy from a dead-end job, and forming a partnership where I was the principal organizing factor, five years in he got tired of what he considered my lack of ambition and told me to move out.
Wow, that hurt. Sure, I ended up getting an appreciable monetary settlement after a lengthy litigation, but being thrown out in the street from the business that I created and pretty much ran was a real knock. In retrospect, he was probably right, at least in the sense that we had very different ideas on how to do business. And, after a short period of feeling utterly destroyed, I landed on my feet in my typical, improbable fashion. As it was, it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me, career wise.
Finally, and much more traumatically, came the crisis with my wife. It was supposed to be a “routine” brain surgery to remove a benign tumor impinging her optic nerve–three days in the hospital and then home for Christmas. Instead it turned into a months-long fight for her life that, ultimately, miraculously, and against all odds, ended with her suddenly re-emerging as her same, beautiful self. Oh, did I mention, in the middle of this my sister died a mysterious death in frozen Brattleboro, Vermont and, as her only surviving relative, I had to simultaneously deal with that crisis.
I remember that cold, January drive to Vermont as if it were yesterday, having to leave my poor wife behind. In Morrisville, New Jersey, the overwhelming sadness and guilt with that situation finally overtook me and I had to leave the Interstate to wander about that town in the frozen air to compose myself. At last I was able to compartmentalize and turn my full attention to attacking the uncertainty that lay before me in New England with the mess that my sister left in her wake. Probably no choice I‘ve ever taken has been more difficult. But nothing I’ve ever experienced has left me stronger.
When I mentioned these thoughts to my wife, her first reaction was: “What about the birth of your son?” Though she didn’t say it, she probably was also thinking, “What about marrying me?” But I guess I take those things for granted, as they are pleasant moments of continuity. Those I noted are the three that quickly came into my mind. And I’m hoping that, in my remaining time, they will remain the only ones that do so. Three major lifetime deflections are enough, and I’d prefer to go out with a whimper, and not experience another bang.
©2022, David B Bucher