Ten Year Wake-Up Call–Or Not? (Part 2)

Last time I talked aboutSeptember 11, 2001and how ten years elapsed since the day that date gained the dubious status of “a day that will live in infamy,” much likeDecember 7, 1941.

I shared how time passes, how I barely notice and how that decade mark tends to wake me up a bit to how quickly time really flies. (Sorry folks. A cliché is cliché for a reason. It resonates.)  Of course, my topic ran away with itself, so I opted to explore a point separately. I want to talk about prioritizing and ‘making time.’

IMHO, life today is so crazy because ‘priority’ is a term that applies to pretty much everything in one’s home and work lives. My kids want me at the ready and all my schoolwork, housework and everything else needs to be done yesterday. Yes, I’m exaggerating a bit, but the point ties into when I worked at my first hospital.

By my third year there, I was a senior therapist and supervising most of the occupational therapists that treated the rehabilitation-bed patients. I worked in a teaching hospital, on a unit whose beds were being increased faster than staff was hired. One day, I went to my director one on behalf of a very burnt-out group of young women. She told me we needed to work on ‘time management.’ I very respectfully told her we’d already done that to the very limits of human capability given the workload we had. In short—and I told my director this: “We have no time left to manage.” Despite the realities, we had to get creative and learn how to ‘make’ more time in a day.

That brings me to my biggest life lesson on the subject, one I still let life get in the way of routinely, I guess. (Hey, the day-to-day gets in the way.) I had a cousin who was my mom’s godson. Every now and again we’d chat. He was always pleasant and I always enjoyed talking to him. As Italians tend to do, we visited him in his new home after he married and had his first son.

He moved to a new home. My mom kept getting on my case that we had to go see it (it’s an Italian thing and since my mother doesn’t do highways her only daughter gets assigned designated driver). Every time I ran into this cousin he too, reminded me to bring my mom over for a visit.

Never managed to scare out that time. By the ten year mark, he and his family had moved into a third home. Now my mom was really on my case to visit. So was he—as always in a fun way—when I called to give condolences after his mother-in-law passed away from cancer. His also shared that his father (my dad’s first cousin) had been diagnosed with a terminal illness as well. He hung up, laughing as he said, “I’m not talking to you anymore. It’s too depressing.”

I’m sure we had other conversations but I consider that one our  last real one.  While at a sporting tournament with his teenage son my cousin started getting terrible headaches and vomiting. A visit to the doctor led to one with an oncologist. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died nine months to the day he got diagnosed.

In ten years I never made the time to visit him in his new home.

Ten years.

That’s a huge chunk of time.

Italians are big on dovere—duty. When someone dies, you show up at that person’s family’s home in a show of sympathy and support. My cousin passed away in the early morning hours of the Tuesday following Labor Day. That night, I managed to get to his house. Amazing how I was able to make getting to his house a priority then.

And I still let life get in the way of making time for the things that really matter.

Hope you do better at that than I do.


4 thoughts on “Ten Year Wake-Up Call–Or Not? (Part 2)

  1. Joanna – thanks for a very thought-provoking post. Sometimes it takes things like that to make us change our priorities. Other times, it’s our own health that “helps” us make that change (as in my own cardiac event). As long as we learn something in the process, right?


  2. My pleasure, Ann. I still feel that I let the daily grind get in the way of what matters most, but I’m working on it 🙂


  3. Hi Joanna,
    There is nothing worse than regret. We can’t change it, but we never forget the lessons we learn from it either.
    When my Grandfather was in hospital, I went in there with my then boyfriend (who is now my hubby). My grandfather smelled and came across as wild and odd. He couldn’t talk, but his eyes were pleading with me to talk to him, and the noises he made confirmed this. He and I had a special relationship and I loved him dearly. I remember glancing at my boyfriend and thinking how embarrassed I was for him to see my grandfather like that. Then I turned to my GF, patted his hand and told him I’d see him in a couple of days. I meant it too, but he died the next day. I wish I had suggested to my boyfriend to wait for me so I could have some time with my GF alone. Ah, the things we learn from growing up and hindsight.
    Because of this, I’ve tried to be better when people need me. I’ll never let down someone I love again.
    Thanks for your post Joanna.


    1. Thanks so much to you, LaVerne, for taking the time to share such a personal and poignant moment. My dad was hospitalized from Oct 3-Jan 22 and on/off (mostly on) from then thru July 7 of that same year, when he finally passed away. That was 17+ years ago. Because my parents had their issues and I was the oldest, only daughter of immigrant Italian parents AND had a medical background, I was expected to be there daily, deal with doctors, etc, all while I worked full time. I won’t tell you I always handled the situation graciously. BUT, I promised to do so with more kindness should I have to do so again for another family member. Hope to see you here again soon!


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