I would like to share with you an excerpt of a story by Michael Gartner, president of NBC News:
"I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.
"No left turns," he said.
"What?" I asked.
"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic. As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."
"What?" I said again.
"No left turns," he said. "Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer. So we always make three rights."
"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support.
"No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works." But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."
I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.
"Loses count?" I asked.
"Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."
I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.
"No," he said. If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."
My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90. She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.
A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred." At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."
"You're probably right," I said.
"Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.
"Because you're 102 years old," I said..
"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day. That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night. He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said:
"I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet"
An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:
"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."
A short time later, he died.
I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long. I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, or because he quit taking left turns. Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one's who don't. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it &; if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it."
And so as I reflect on Michael's story of his aging parents, the last part is so true. About being with those that treat us right. I also began to think upon the wisdom of making only left turns as they grew older, just to be safe. I suppose that is true, that as we grow older, we grow wiser and learn the safer path, even if it is less conveinient. But sometimes we take wrong turns and there are one way streets. Even when you think you are certain you know where you parked, after making circles to find your way back, it can be quite a journey. Sometimes when we make a wrong turn, in the moment we think we are doing the right thing. In the journey of being lost without knowing, sometimes it is what has made us what we are if we are able to look back and let go of how we got to the destination and accept where we are. But the reality is, sometimes we make the same mistakes again. Have you ever made the same wrong turn over and over to get to a place, because that is how you got there the first time? I've done that.
I have made many many wrong turns in my life. Some because I was naive and adventurous. Some were from being vulnerable and trusting someone else. And some were from simply not keeping focus on what was in front of me and looking too far ahead.
Though I would have likely found my way alone, it was always comforting to be part of the group. If one of us forgot a turn, another took over and so on until we found our way through the city. For some of my group, it was their first time to NYC. We made a few wrong turns looking for things, but found new sites to adventure instead. Going on an adventure sometimes means not holding to a plan or following a map. The key to finding our way back was in trusting one another and in making turns toward the things that looked familiar.