My father-in-law died today. His name was Steven.
I don't exactly know what to do - I have a computer model to make, but that seems, right now, like silly nonsense. I have a client to get back to, but she's lived in her house for a couple of years, so I think she can wait a couple of days. I did some stupid paperwork, so that's something. But after putting a new pad on my Swiffer and dusting cobwebs around the corners, where no one ever dusts, I thought I'd come here.
I'm alone, at home. There is a cat, but those of you who have cats know what that means.
Steven's daughter is my wife, Laura. And she's camping. In the Adirondacks. With my son. Out of phone range. Waaaaaayyyy out of range. She's not "the last to know," but it took a bit to get to her.
I'm reflecting on our culture right now. If you're reading this, you probably live in the USA. It always seems like there's a lot going on in the US, and right now it's a lot of election stuff. There's a lot of talk about what "America" is and whether it's great or not.
America's pretty great, with room for improvement. We don't need to make it great "again." It's been great for a long time, but I'll admit that for a while it wasn't that great. In some ways it still isn't. I'm not gonna talk about the ways it's not great. This isn't about that.
But here's how it was great today. I got a call, on my mobile device, that came through satellites, with bad news. I called a friend on my device. The call kept dropping out, so we switched to landline, text, & email. He texted me, and emailed me a link. I went to the link, which had a phone number, which I called. They gave me the number of a Ranger. I called her, and her voicemail basically said "I'm almost always out of range so here are two other numbers you can call, one's my office and one's Dispatch." I called the office number and she picked up. I told her that two people in her "jurisdiction" didn't know that their father/grandfather had died, and could she help?
She went out into the wilderness and found them. First, she said, she had to go evict some people from a campsite, but then she'd be on her way. Another day in America.
Can you imagine? Camping with your son, and a Ranger appears, wearing a sad face that they hope is appropriate? To tell you some of the worst news you could possibly get?
Laura had to: get the news from a stranger, be strong for her son, pack up, get in the car, and drive 4 hours, all while grieving. That's what her life is right now. Driving while grieving.
But this is one way America is great. The infrastructure and support is huge ("yuge"). I found a person who could help with, honestly, not too much effort. And I say this as someone who STILL hasn't talked to his wife, and it's been hours. I'm just killin' time, here. And crying. And my mobile device is chiming to alert me that a webinar is about to start. (Or, as I've heard them called, a "wecture.") I don't even want to go to it. It seems stupid.
Steven died today. He had a big personality: he was an artist, he loved women, he lived large. He was America. The son of Polish immigrants, he had a lot of opportunities in this country and he took them. He bought a house, tore it down, and rebuilt it in a grand fashion. "Ma & Pa Kettle in the front, Howard Hughes in the back," is how he described it. (The back was a two-story deck, and it is impressive.) It wasn't until just now (literally) that I realized that, by hiring a good contractor, he saved more energy over his lifetime than he would have if he'd left the original poorly-built home alone. He then used that future-energy he banked and spent it, so that he in the end, the scales were balanced.
He got it. He understood that treading lightly on the planet was silly. If you tiptoe around, you leave no footprints. If you stomp around and do big things, you leave big footprints. You change things. Whether they're good things or bad things is up to you.
So when someone tells you that you need to "shrink your footprint," feel free to tell them to back off - they don't know you. Leave as big a footprint as you want. But know how big they are. Turn around and look at them every so often.
Steven, at any time, could turn around and look at his footprints and be mostly OK with them. Some of them he regretted, but most of them he didn't. He did good things.
Isn't that the point?
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