I am always on the lookout for lessons. Always wondering what a chance encounter with a stranger is supposed to teach me. Always listening for little pearls of wisdom from children and the elderly. Always paying attention to each new person that enters my life- my little corner of the world, for when they share their experiences I often learn something new. Sometimes if I am lucky some random person will say something that sparks my thoughts and away I go.
Once or twice a month since his wife passed he comes to see me. He makes his way slowly down the hall to my office and appears at my door. Stooped slightly with brilliant white hair and carrying his checkbook, he always looks at me sheepishly. He claims to have a question on his billing statement. But he knows that I know, it is just a ruse to come see me. This man was a doctor in his day and still carries about him that air of confidence. It is embedded in his soul. Until he comes into my office and lets his guard down. I can feel his sadness roll off him in waves. He misses his wife. But it is more than that. He is lost without her, literally and figuratively. He spent 12 years earning his medical degree. Then decades building his practice and providing for his family. His wife ran the house, the children and all of the day to day tasks that he took for granted. With her gone now, he has no idea what to do. It confuses him, frightens him and makes him doubt himself. After a lifetime of healing others, to see a proud 78 year old man doubt himself gives me pause. So we talk.
This man -- a doctor. Performed complicated surgeries. Held the very lives of his patients in his hands. Yet cannot begin to figure out what to buy for groceries. How to run the "damn washing machine" nor figure out how to replicate the perfect starching of his collars. He looks at the bills that arrive in the mail with contempt and has all but given up on figuring out his checkbook. He is overwhelmed. So he comes to see me. I go over his billing statement and show him how to read it. Which leads to showing him how to record things into his checkbook and then on to what to buy at the grocery store. I will not allow him to call himself dumb. We talk about all he needs to learn and I give him a few pointers. Write little notes on his billing statement to help him remember next month and then I get him talking. About everything he knew. His practice, his travels around the world, his wife. I can watch his confidence return and he straightens a little. I know more about complicated heart surgery than ever before and he gets some of his confidence back.
The lesson in all of this became clear after his last visit. As he got ready to leave he asked if he could hug me and left me with this comment--"I wish I had paid more attention to all areas of my life. I wish that I not only focused on my work, but also on what goes into each day." His eyes grew wistful and he continued, "My wife and I had a fairy tale life. Our love and our bond got us through 50 years of marriage, 4 children and millions of memories. But the one thing I never paid attention to is what it took to have that life. The day to day things. Well until now."
After he left I sat there thinking. How well do you know your own life?
Being part of a marriage or partnership usually means shared responsibilities. Typically one spouse handles the money, the bills etc. and the generally day to day of life. Over time it just gets taken for granted that is how it is done. In my marriage I handle all the finances and the day to day of running our household. It occurred to me after spending so much time with this man, that if something should ever happen to me, my husband would be in the same predicament. If something should happen to your spouse or partner tomorrow would you know everything you needed to right away? Like where all of your money is? What your account numbers and insurance polices are? When the next round of bills were due or the interest rate of your mortgage?
Would you be able to run the day to day of your own life ?
My guess is after some soul searching and a good honest look, the answer is probably no for a lot of people. I know that my husband would be able to feed and clothe himself. But know what bills were due, what bills we even have and how to get to all of our accounts-- nope. What about you? The lesson this man taught me is that we all need to know how to run every single facet of our lives. The mundane tasks, like general house repairs, car maintenance, and laundry. As well as the big things; like household finances, accounts and bills. Just because it is something you have never done or had to worry about, doesn't mean you shouldn't learn it. I can't imagine what it would be like at 78 years old, after decades of performing heart surgery, and not be able to balance a checkbook or pay my bills. To not know how to fix a leaky faucet or get my vehicle fixed. These are all things we need to know.
We need to understand and grasp every single facet of our lives. This lesson isn't just for the older crowd either. Life can change for all of us in an instant. Regardless of how old you are or how long you have been together. Spend sometime looking at the day to day of your life. You will be a stronger person for it.