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You Never Know When It Will Be Too Late

By Cynthia Hogg April 10, 2023 Family

Recently, my 15-year-old granddaughter sat me down for a school project that involved interviewing someone who has mentored you or made a difference in your life. I was thrilled that she chose me, her grandma!

It was interesting to hear what questions she had thought up and flattered that she was actually interested in so many stories from my life. After the project was completed, she was eager to share with me what her “takeaways” were after hearing my life experiences. She mentioned several, but said the most important one was, “Do it now, because you never know when it will be too late.”

This insight was not stated by me in so many words but was instead something she primarily gleaned from several trips I shared.

A Trip to Europe

The first trip was when my mother and I traveled to Europe for a month after I graduated from college. It seemed a crazy thing at the time. Rare for students today, I actually graduated with some money still left in my savings. But I hadn’t found a job yet and had moved back home while looking. Wouldn’t it be foolhardy to spend the last of my savings on travel when I didn’t have the prospect of a job?

I also didn’t have anyone to go with me because after graduation, all my friends were either starting jobs or getting married. Then my mother volunteered – Bingo! We had always been close but more than that, I knew we would be the perfect traveling companions. Everyone tried to talk us into taking a tour (you know, two women traveling alone, not knowing the languages, etc.), but we wanted to go on our own and do our own thing.

In the end, we ignored the naysayers, bought a pair of Eurail tickets, packed a copy of Frommer’s Europe on $10 a Day, and had a marvelous time visiting Germany, Austria, Italy, France, Switzerland and a little bit of England (we flew home from London).

And we were the perfect traveling companions. We later joked that if she had been in charge of the practical details (train schedules, changing currency), we never would have left the first station. My extroverted, people person mother, however, was the instigator of several outstanding experiences I never would have had on my own.

What neither of us could have known at that time was that this would be the last fun thing we would ever do together: shortly after that, at the age of 52, she was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

There Were Two Other Trips

My husband was born and raised in western Pennsylvania – and had never been west of Ohio! I was appalled, so before he settled down to his graduate studies, we took a trip (combination bus and car) out to California, visiting relatives and seeing sites, like the Grand Canyon, along the way. For several of our relatives (two aunts and an uncle), that was the only time we ever met them. One aunt gave me pictures of my father that I had never seen before.

The final trip was a 6-week trip we took many years later, before our oldest son started college. His later studies and work commitments precluded him ever taking a trip like that with us again, and we have such wonderful memories from that trip!

Extending Our Family

But my granddaughter said that it was more than just the trips, and she mentioned the adoption my husband and I did in 2002 of two Russian girls, ages 12 and 14. It’s true. As a little girl, I couldn’t imagine anything sadder than a child not having a family and vowed that, if at all possible, I would adopt someday.

Suddenly, my three biological children were nearly grown, and I realized if I didn’t hurry, it would never happen, and I would look back with huge regret. My husband and I seized the moment and our two daughters, now ages 32 and 34, are doing beautifully and are a huge blessing to our family!

On the other hand, when I review my life, I see it is simply littered with wasted opportunities, things I let slip past, things I wish I had done but didn’t out of procrastination, fear, or lack of planning. Thank goodness I have a few things I can be proud of!

Leaving a Legacy

And then my granddaughter turned the tables on me!

“Have you ever written down all of these family stories? Have you written down all of the adventures you had with your mother, incidents from your childhood, the whole story of the adoption, all the other trips?”

Sadly, I had to tell her, “No.”

“Grandma,” she said, “if you don’t write these down, who will? Most of these details will be lost! And you better do it soon – for you never know when it will be too late!”

Hmmm, my dear granddaughter, I think you may have a good point!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What are some things you’re glad you did when you did them? Are there things you wish you had done in your life but let the opportunity slip by? Is it really too late, or could you still make some of them happen?

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Jean Hoffmann

Love this! My daughter did the same thing with my mother, who passed away in 2008. The cassette recording is one of her prized possessions.
I am writing my memoirs for my grandchildren. It’s not that I’ve led an extraordinary life, but I would love to have a life story written by my grandmothers, who went from farm with no plumbing or electricity to the space age (one grandma never believed we went to the moon!). My childhood (I remember the first time I saw a microwave!) was so different than my Grandkids’ and I want them to know about it.

Last edited 10 months ago by Jean Hoffmann
Terri

When reading the article, I was unexpectedly affected by the title of the article, “You Never Know When It Will Be Too Late.” words I never liked hearing. And I thought I would write down the things I feel motivated to share in writing that I did do that were fun, challenging, and inspiring.
Also, I thought I would write down the things I still want to do because life is about living. What better time to live than now?

Karen Jennings

I followed in my aunt’s footsteps in visiting Mexico, Honduras and cruising to Alaska, Cancun, solo! Loved every second! This time, I would like/ planning to visit cousins in CA before, cousins in PA and friends in IN- all by train!! It will take some planning & my health is good( except this week, I’m down with bronchitis)

Barbara

Beautiful. Inspiring.

Judith Barrett

I have started a memoir taken from my journals but then during Covid stopped writing and reading and my son passed away.I am just now thinking of what legacy I want to leave behind as I approach my 80 th birthday.It will be writing for sure but I haven’t decided in what form yet

The Author

Cynthia Hogg is a freelance writer in western Michigan who contributes regularly to Sixty and Me and Senior Perspectives magazine. She loves to travel and spend time with her grandchildren, especially combining the two. She is the editor of the newly updated blog www.skipgentravelguru.com.

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