Two years ago, my husband was scheduled to give a talk close to Charlottesville, Virginia, where we used to live. Why didn’t I come along with him, he suggested. We could visit old friends in Charlottesville over that weekend.
So, we made our plans. As the trip neared, I began to fret about it. Flying out of Austin is often inconvenient, since you usually have to go through Dallas or Chicago. But flying into Charlottesville is far worse. Our travel schedule looked like a patchwork of airports and layovers and — worst of all, to me — one segment on a propeller plane. I’ve finally lost my fear of flying on jets, which is something that seemed to disappear after I had cancer. But I still hate prop planes. They strike me as dangerous. I knew I’d need — how shall I put it? — fortification for that leg of the trip.
That wasn’t the only problem. With me going along, the trip was also expensive for only a couple of days. What had I been thinking? I was too busy. We should be spending our money in other, better ways. Yak, yak, yak, the usual recriminations. Flyer’s remorse.
But it was too late to cancel, so we went. We went — and I had one of the best, most enjoyable weekends of my life.
We stayed up till all hours with the dear friends we stayed with — a couple we’d been close to when we were young and before we all had kids. We talked and drank and laughed and savored that certain kind of warmth you have with people you’ve known for decades.
We walked around town, drove by our old house and the hospital where our daughter was born. We saw other friends for dinner and talked and laughed till we were clutching our stomachs.
You know where I’m going with this, I’m sure. But I’ll go on, anyway. This is something I have to learn over and over in my own life, like I’m a slow student about understanding what’s really meaningful and important. Never miss a chance to be with people you care about. I think of that often these days, when I see an older woman who reminds me of my friend, Alana, who died a few months ago. I miss talking to her, having lunch with her, knowing I could bring some pleasure into her life as it grew more limited. I should have done more.
Recently, we were invited to the 25th wedding anniversary celebration of some other old friends in July. It’s a busy summer and we’re already coming and going a lot. But we’re going to this dinner. I don’t want to miss a chance to celebrate something good and see people I love.
Celebrate, enjoy, love. Who cares how schmaltzy it sounds? I hope I’ve learned that lesson.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)