Life threatening experiences are pretty rare which is a good thing.  My recent open heart surgery 2 weeks ago was one of those  Counting clock ticks at 3 a.m. is a slow process which leads to a restless mind thinking wild thoughts about crazy subjects.  In my case, I focused on going back in time to earlier points in my life so I could arrive just before I made one of my dumb decisions which would haunt me in later years.  I wanted the opportunity to slap myself upside the head to stop the calamity before it happened. Unfortunately, I have a lot of those moments and needed a lot of head slapping which kept my mind occupied during the long hours in ICU.  After the first night, the time travel approach to resolving old issues kept returning bringing more unwelcome memories of situations in which I’d managed to do the wrong thing in the past.  The total number grew nightly – I lost count.  I couldn’t believe how many cross roads I’d arrived at only to go off in the wrong direction in blissful ignorance of the eventual outcome.  How I’d survived this long was a miracle!  Like Marlon Brando in ‘Waterfront’, I coulda been a contender!  It sobers you up in a hurry as it carries you through the long nights.
     When I left the ICU where the minutes were like weeks, my mind shifted gears and focused on missed opportunities.  Now in my mid 70’s, I wish I had been mature enough long ago to ask my parents and grandparents all of the questions I would ask today were they still alive.  Thoughts like that when you can’t move and are wrapped in a cocoon of wires, probes, drains and monitors will haunt you and drive you crazy – or, they’ll make you think.  

     Now that I’m back home recovering, I realize that, although it’s too late for me, I CAN still do exactly what I was wishing I could do except it’ll be for my Grandkids and great Grandkids!  I’m committing the remainder of my convalescence to writing the story of my side of our family; our origins; our ancestors; why they immigrated to America et al.  Everything I know about our genealogy including our medical history. What were some challenges and accomplishments as well as our worst mistakes?  I think you get the picture.

     I also plan to include some of life’s key lessons that I’ve learned early, learned late, never learned or just didn’t pay attention and what some of the outcomes turned out to be – good and bad.  When you manage to survive survive ¾’s of a century of life’s experiences you have no choice but to learn a few things.  Why not pass them on before I lose the opportunity?  I never saw heart surgery coming until the doctor said I could either have surgery or die!  (Not in those exact words but, close to it).  I don’t want to waste the 2nd chance that God, the surgeons and their medical team, have given me.  The next time I have a life threatening experience, I don’t want to look back on this moment with regret as yet another failed opportunity to pass on some of the valuable but perishable data that I’ve spent a lifetime in acquiring.  I don’t want them wondering where they came from when they get old enough to start thinking in that direction.  A friend of mine, Phil Pascoe, did something similar for his family and I’m not ashamed to ride in his trail.

     Since the surgeon says I can’t drive for almost another 2 weeks and my wife hid my car keys along with my power tools because she knows I’ll try anyway – I have plenty of time and I’m well enough to type.  I’ve been given a second chance and I plan to use it.
     My plan is to put together a basic background history based on my memory, stories from my parents, grandparents and other relatives along with old family photos and a genealogy chart of the family going back as far as I can get data – a very heavy challenge.  Once I have the basics completed, I’ll add separate, personal letters to each of my daughters and grandkids who I’ve watched grow from childhood into real people.  Each one is unique with individual talents, potentials and frailties and I love them all.  However!  That does Not mean that they don’t need a slap upside their head from time to time.  Talk about chips off the old block!

     Once I’ve completed my project, I’ll travel to their part of the country and pass their heritage on to each one.  Now, I’m not foolish enough not to understand that you can lead a horse to water but, You Can’t Make Them Drink!  This is especially true of my descendents who are all independent and stubborn in their own ways.  They’re also just as precocious as I was because they all knew everything there was to know about everything as soon as they entered teenhood – a sure sign that they need a slap in the head!

     Here’s my suggestion to anyone over 50 out there: Don’t wait for a life threatening experience.  We don’t choose them and we sure can’t control them.  You may not have the time that I’ve been given.  That’s Your Wake-up Call!
End of rant.  Have a blessed day.