Do It Right the First Time

I’m on the road again … again. Driving to Chicago to attend Payton’s high school graduation. My fondest wish is that this will be the first of eight grandchildren high school graduations I will be blessed to attend. 

I just left the University of Missouri (Mizzou) in Columbia where Payton plans to enter college this fall. Needing directions while there, I had the good fortune to chat with a number of students – and flashes of my own experience of more than sixty years ago came to mind. Reflecting on this, I find myself replaying a couple of time-travel movies. And beating myself up for countless bad choices.

In “Peggy Sue Got Married”, Peggy Sue finds herself thrown back to her teen years. Although her body is that of her teenage self, she’s much wiser and vows not to repeat the life-changing choice she made. The second time around, she falls in love the same way she did the first time and makes the same choice. Of course it’s a movie and they live happily ever after.

If I’m honest, the self I am today might not be any better. After graduating near the top of my class from a high school that was rated among the best in the nation, I went to Cornell University. For the first time in my life, I was treated as an adult. Hot shot that I was, I zoomed to the dean’s list in my first semester. I also learned about beer. And that going to class was optional. In my second semester, I made probation. By the third semester, the brat in me won out – I earned an invitation to stay home until I grew up. 

A few years later, I had a whirlwind romance with Lynn Dewey that resulted in a hasty marriage. Parents on both sides urged us to wait a year until we finished school. They even offered valuable incentives. But in the back of my mind, I believed that if we didn’t marry right now we wouldn’t marry at all. The brat won. We married and fifteen years later divorced. To be completely fair, Lynn was a great wife; we had many good years  and two wonderful children (Scott and Susan). We just weren’t made for each other.

Twenty years later, I fell in love again – this time for life. And our lives have been filled with blessings. Marie’s kids (Lainie and Eddie) lived with us. They weren’t mine, yet when they weren’t with their father, they required a male role model in their lives. It necessitated my growing up as a parent and with infinite guidance and patience from Marie I did a fair job of it. With our two children (Jeff and Annie) I had the opportunity to be the father I wish I had been for Scott and Susan. The entire family can be seen here.

You’d think with the blessing of this family that I’ve finally grown up. But my brat is still in charge all too often. More than seven years ago, not knowing how long I had left, I decided to leave some record of my experience on earth – GrandpaLyle’s Notebook. Yet here I am at 81 years old, wasting time with brainless internet surfing and hours of puzzles to satisfy myself that I still “have it” … all the while neglecting my story.

Which brings me to the second time travel movie –  About Time. In this story, a young man discovers he has the ability to go back and relive moments in his past. As he first practices the use of his gift, he goes back, un-says cringe worthy comments, and kisses the girl like he should have the first time. But as he grows with it, he only goes back one day at a time to perfect little things. Finally, he learns how to do it right the first time.

I just passed my 81st birthday. And realize that in the world I know, time travel is not an option. But I’m not too late to make the right choices today … to leave the brat behind … and this time to do it right the first time. Odds are about 50-50!

A sheriff’s car just passed me with the license please license 424 – my birthday. Is this an omen? Hmmm…

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