Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another chance

One of the good things about life is that as long as you can take another breath you have the opportunity to change your mind.

Too often people get bogged down in mistakes and missed opportunities. They don't realize they can still make changes. Nothing is carved in stone until it's on your tombstone.

Many times before I have said that if something isn't working and fixing it is not an option, toss it and start over again.

When I first started writing for a local newspaper back in Ohio I was assigned to interview an attorney for the ACLU who was defending the Ku Klux Klan in front of the Supreme Court. The fact that the attorney was a Jew defending a group that wanted him dead and his entire race exterminated didn't fascinate me nearly as much as finding out he was a new lawyer. He had had a career in business and had retired. He'd always wanted to be a lawyer so at the young age of 57 he went back to school, got his law degree and signed on with the ACLU. The KKK case wasn't his first, but he didn't have that many cases under his belt when he took them on. I asked him why he decided to begin another career and he told me it was because he wasn't dead yet. He even had plans of starting another career if he got tired of law.

A guy I went to school with who lived in my neighborhood is another case in point--or rather his father is. His father was in his fifties when he met, courted and married a woman in her thirties. He had been married before. His wife had died and his children were grown and gone but he fell in love again. He married her and assured her they wouldn't have any children and that he might not live very long. He was wrong. They had a son--the guy I mentioned. When I met the guy again at a high school reunion we picked up our friendship again. He introduced me to his parents. His father was in his nineties and bed ridden. He had emphysema and was on oxygen. As I talked with his mother and father in their living room where his father lay on a foldout couch, they told me their story. His father told me that he had thought his life was over when his wife died and his children moved away. It wasn't. In between gasping breaths he told me the world was a funny place and the best part is that every day is another chance to go in a new direction. He almost didn't marry my friend's mother because he didn't believe he had much longer to live.

He turned to his wife sitting by his side holding his hand. "I'm glad she didn't give up on me," he said.

His wife smiled shyly. "I wasn't going away," she said. "No matter how long it took for him to come to his senses. We belong together."

"I thought I was doing the right thing staying away from her. I thought she'd find someone her own age and be happy." He squeezed her soft hand with one big arthritis-gnarled hand.

"How could I be happy without you?" They smiled at each other as if we weren't in the room.

I have met and interviewed many people. The people who linger in my memory are the ones who didn't give up and weren't afraid to take a new direction. They give me a sense of hope that nothing is impossible as long as there is a moment more of life.

We all make mistakes. If a mistake isn't fatal and there is still a moment more, a single breath left of life it isn't too late to reach out for what you want. It's never too late to go back and pick up where you left off or even strike out in a new direction. For all you know, someone is willing to forget the mistakes and waits for you to come to your senses and take another chance at happiness.

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