Everything has its own season. Birth, childhood, growth, career, old age and death all have their time and place in our existence here on planet earth. The river of time keeps flowing and there is little we can do about it. I was hit today by just how consistent that transition is, and how quickly it can happen. I realized how one season can blend into the next when I stopped to eat breakfast this morning at my favorite diner, Pete’s Sandwich Shop.
Pete’s was founded in 1905 in Johnstown, NY by the Agnostopolus family. It has been an uninterrupted fixture here on Main Street for the past 108 years. In fact, it was founded the year my father as born, so it holds a special place in my heart for that reason. The father handed it off to his son and daughter, John and Jean, who are now 86 and 91 years of age. Jean has lived her entire life in the apartment connect to that place and never felt the need to marry. John spent his life there as well, but He married and had several children. One of John’s sons, Mike, now runs this family business. Today I saw Mike sitting at the counter while someone else was behind it serving up breakfast for those who have been loyal to this place for decades. That simple change to this family’s amazing legacy was a reminder of how quickly seasons fly by.
What struck me was how this changing of the guard happened while I was absent. My life has been very busy and it has been months since I stopped in to get breakfast. The prices have changed since I first went there in August of 1986, and that was to be expected. Two eggs, two slices of toast and two cups of coffee are no longer $1.82. That changed happened about 8 years ago and I had to adjust. My old booth was still there and all else looked as it has for the past 60 years. But, there behind the counter were two new faces, and as stupid as it may sound, that difference was a bit unsettling. Then I learned the young man was Mike’s son, and the young lady was his girlfriend. Family is family so that allowed me to make yet another acceptable shift in reality and life made sense once again. The legacy was being passed along and I could flow with that.
The real impact came when I asked Mike where John and Jean were. He said that John only came in once or twice a week now just to get coffee, chat with friends and serve a few of us old-timers. At age 86 I guess I can accept that with a grain of salt and give him the grace to back off. He has been opening for breakfast at 5:30am all these years so he deserves to sleep in at this point in his life. However, when Mike said that Jean had been placed in an adult retirement home in Amsterdam 3 months earlier, something in me was shaken to the core. A permanent change had taken place after 91 years of constancy, and there was no going back. Jean would never again be behind that counter, bent by age but smiling and informative of the town’s business, as she brought morning coffee. I would never again see her watering the ancient plants in the sunny storefront windows, or hear her evaluation of world events. She had aged, as we all have, and that passage of time had finally taken its toll. A season had come and gone and I had been distracted and missed the transition.
What seasonal transitions are now happening in your life, or the lives of those you love? Do you really, and I mean really know? If you live in a place of continual distraction, or unbalanced focus, you will be unconscious to those changes when they come, and that makes a huge difference. Without you seeing so much as a blip on the radar screen, significant things can begin or end in the lives of others, and your input into that transition will be lost forever. My experience was relatively minor, but consider the things that are now happening to those closest to you. Have you been absent when you could have made a real difference in their future by being there at a turning point in their life?
This is one of life’s great questions and only you can provide the answer. My hope is that you will make the necessary adjustments so you can “be there” and help those you love through the places of transition. Seasons will come and go, and opportunities may be missed at times, but the life we have is at it’s best when we invest our time in others. How is your human investment portfolio doing these days? Will you be happy with it’s return? If not, then you might want to reconsider your strategy and decided today that you will just be there when it counts. The future of those you love depends on it, so don’t drop the ball!