It’s been a pretty significant week for me. One of those weeks that has led to a lot of introspection on my part. So, if you’ll bear with me. I’m going to try and sort it all out here. I suspect that this is going to be a long one, so maybe get yourself a cup of coffee and settle in…

<FAIR WARNING: This may get weird, so hang on to your hat!>

In the fall of 1980 (when I was fifteen for those of you who are counting), I began my first part-time job at a newly opened McDonald’s restaurant in the hamlet of Sherwood Park. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a coming-of-age experience that is still with me today. There are a crap ton of fond memories from that time and also a crap ton of people who I discovered I feel a crap ton of affection for despite the fact that I haven’t seen most of them for thirty-five years or so. (That’s a lot of “crap tons” for one sentence!) Some of us have kept in touch on social media, a little or a lot, but for me, with actual friends, that hardly suffices.

Two of those people were Bob and Robin Ellacott. Regretfully, we’ve only been back in touch for about a year or so. They were two among the many at McDonald’s. We all worked together, socialized together, grew up together.

I’ve written before, on this blog, about how significant working at McDonald’s was to my life and how profoundly it affected my future. Bob and Robin met at McDonald’s and fell in love. In the time since then, they got married, had kids, and raised a family — just like many of us. They built a great life together and a beautiful family.

Bob Ellacott

I remember Bob as an often-smiling, easy-going, soft-spoken good guy who was easy to talk to and a good listener. I also remember how well-matched a lot of us thought he and Robin were. I don’t think too many of us were surprised that they were able to build a life together.

Sadly, last weekend, the news came through social media that Bob had lost his year-long battle with cancer.

On Monday, near dinnertime, I got a message from one of the guys I used to work with at McDonald’s that a bunch of the old gang was going to get together and raise a glass in Bob’s memory and would I like to join them. I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea.

Being the sloppy, sentimental fool that I am, the moment I walked in the door and into that first hug, the affection for all those people from that wonderful time in my life nearly overwhelmed me. Despite the sadness of the occasion that brought us all together, we had a great time — laughing, reminiscing, catching up. And then, at the end of the night, more hugging and promising to do this again, more frequently than once every 35 years or so.

In the back of my mind, there is also a tiny little bit of regret. So many years apart, so many missed memories together. And yeah, I know — everyone has their own lives, their own path to walk that doesn’t necessarily include everyone they’d like to be there. That’s natural — it’s called “Life”. Without walking those individual paths, we’d never have made it to that bar.

And then I stumbled across this the next morning.

Wow.

Estimates have placed the totality of homo sapiens at somewhere around 60 billion. Since human beings first appeared on planet Earth. 60 billion. And none of us have ever been or will ever be again. In all the universe, there will only ever be one of each of us.

Only one you.

Only one me.

And that led me to start thinking about big, deep subjects like the meaning of life (as cliched as that is) and how really insignificant we all are in this vast world.

And doing that reminded me of something else I used to have hanging on my wall: a poem written during the Vietnam War by a student of Leo Buscaglia. I’ll never forget the first time I heard him recite it.

THINGS YOU DIDN’T DO

Remember the day I borrowed your brand new car and I dented it?
I thought you’d kill me.
But you didn’t.

And remember the time I dragged you to the beach, and you said it would rain, and it did?
I thought you’d say, “I told you so.”
But you didn’t.

Do you remember the time I flirted with all the guys to make you jealous, and you were?
I thought you’d leave me.
But you didn’t.

Do you remember the time I spilled strawberry pie all over your car rug?
I thought you’d hit me.
But you didn’t.

And remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance was formal and you showed up in jeans?
I thought you’d drop me.
But you didn’t.

Yes, there were lots of things you didn’t do,
But you put up with me, and you loved me, and you protected me.
And there were so many things I wanted to make up to you when you returned from Vietnam.

But you didn’t.

If Leo taught me anything, it’s that life should be lived in the now. Too many of us put things off for later, only to find that putting it off was a mistake that can no longer be corrected. And in the end, I think we regret the things we didn’t do when we had the chance more than anything else.

Yesterday morning, Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” came on the radio. I’ve listened to that song I don’t know how many times. But yesterday, I heard it the clearest I ever have. “… I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance.” I wouldn’t be where I am right at this moment without all I have worked for, failed at, endured, triumphed over, and gutted out.  I can’t and don’t regret any of it.

And then last night, when I was thinking about writing this meandering, schizophrenic, bi-polar post and trying to figure out what title to give it, the way Leo closed out one of his lectures came to mind and so, I too, will close with that: a small, simple poem by the Italian poet, Salvatore Quasimodo (first in the original Italian, then translated to english):

Ed è Subito Sera

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra,
trafitto da un raggio di sole,
ed è subito sera.

And Suddenly It’s Night

Each of us stands alone in this vast world,
momentarily bathed in a ray of sunlight,
and suddenly it’s night.

To all those people I’ve shared the sunlight with over the years, I love you — some of you, more than others. LOL!

Rest in peace, Bob.