I’m not going to name names here because that’s not what this is about, but life is short in my family.
One of my relatives was in his 30s when his first heart attack struck. Another had his first cardiac event sometime in his 40s, but we’re not exactly sure when because it struck silently. Years later, when he had his next one, the doctors found the damage from the first one, and basically told him his heart was a ticking time bomb. (TICKING! Get it? Oh, I kill me.) Another one retired after a long, productive career. He got a physical, part of which was a heart stress test on a treadmill, and he fell dead of a heart attack the next day.
Then there’s the cancer. We’ve got lung cancer from the smokers on both sides of my family because they didn’t know smoking cigarettes would kill you later. Skin cancer on one side because they didn’t know about the sun’s damaging rays, and they spent years playing golf and enjoying themselves. Sure, it’s easy to say that these things are obvious now, but if you’re drinking a chemical-filled diet soda or getting ready to walk through a TSA scanner, don’t tell me you don’t have doubts. We know there’s risks in what we’re doing, and in the backs of our minds, we know our grandkids are going to call us stupid for doing these things to ourselves.
Another family member is battling something that several dozen doctors from the top US hospitals haven’t been able to figure out. One doctor actually said, “You just need to go home and wait for the other shoe to drop. Eventually, something else is going to go wrong, and at that point, we’ll know what the problem is.” It’d be one thing if the disease wasn’t a big deal, but it’s taken away the ability to drive a car, lift more than ten pounds, or listen to music.
The wood in the dash of your doctor’s fancy car?
That’s my family tree.
We take vacations while we can still enjoy it.
As soon as we could afford it – well, really, before then – Erika and I took vacations to cherish our time together. We flew to New York City for Thanksgiving one year, and we didn’t even own winter coats. We couldn’t afford to buy them just for the trip, either, so we shivered our way through the town taking in the sights. We went to Rome, Paris, Mexico, and more – but we stayed in the crappiest, shabbiest places along the way. We just wanted to see the world while we were blessed with enough health and free time to do it.
Later, I started taking my family on cruises for that same reason. I wanted to share these adventures with the people I loved while I still had the time.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time. One of my family members was on the fence about going on a cruise, and it wasn’t ever the right time. That time passed by completely, and that’s no longer an option due to health issues.
I can’t wait to retire, and you can’t either.
No, I mean I actually cannot wait. I have to do it now. I have to look at what people do when they retire, and I have to try to figure out how to get those things in now while I’m still healthy enough to walk and enjoy myself. I have to share these things with others at the moment opportunity presents itself.
It’s not that I want to stop working. I looooove what I do, and I would love to continue doing this until I can’t do it anymore. But I have to sneak in as much cherished time with my loved ones as I can right now, every week, every month, every year.
Go take a tiny vacation right now. Pick up the phone, call one of your relatives, and ask them how they’re doing. Spend fifteen minutes listening, not talking. Before you hang up, pick the next weekend that you’re going to spend together in person.
I’m kinda lucky because I know my family tree is constantly hit by lightning, so I’m used to telling my loved ones how I feel about them. You may not have that blessing – you may get surprised, thinking you have more time left.
Take the time off, take some risks, and take some pictures.
Last weekend’s vacation: watching America’s Cup racing.
Erika, Ernie, and I flew to San Francisco this weekend to watch the America’s Cup finals between Oracle Team USA and Emirates Team New Zealand. These are the most amazing sailboats that have ever raced.
I’ve followed America’s Cup races since I was in high school watching Dennis Conner steal the trophy back from Australia. It’s like NASCAR on the water – it’s about creative interpretation of the rules in order to win.
America’s Cup is a one-design race where all of the boats are supposed to conform to the same rules. The last America’s Cup winner gets to write the rules for the next race, so when Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle won in Valencia in 2010, they got to define the design (and the venue) for the next series. They specifically wrote the rule book so that the boats would not be able to foil, but creative interpretation of the rules is a big part of America’s Cup. The Kiwis, widely regarded as the best sailors in the world, figured out how to bend the rules and get their boat to foil. As soon as the other competitors got wind of this capability, they all raced to figure out how to pull it off without breaking the rules.
These boats were designed not to foil, so they’re spectacularly unstable – nosing down into the waves, capsizing, and in the worst case, killing one of the sailors this year. When this America’s Cup is over, these boats will never be sailed again – they’re simply too dangerous. There will probably never be sailboat races like this again.
For the first time, observers can ride on an official support boat, on the course, chasing the sailboats around. (Chasing is the operative word here: we’re talking over 50mph when the sailboats are foiling.) You get official America’s Cup wet weather gear (yours for keeps) and headsets to listen in on the live commentary. Oh hell yeah, I’m in.
So that’s what I did last weekend. Your turn.
Go build a memory with the people you love – be it camping, running, visiting a museum, cooking a family BBQ, whatever it is – while you (and they) still have the time. You may not get to do this stuff when you retire – voluntarily or involuntarily.