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Thanksgiving – A Good Time to Mend Family Fences

By By Lloyd Albritton
Columnist
I stopped by to visit my old friend, Charley Dyer, recently at his place of business in Pensacola. I have known Charley for over 25 years. We had a pleasant afternoon visit as Charley told me the same stories he has told me hundreds of times before and I laughed as though I were hearing them for the first time. I had not seen Charley in several years and I was happy to see him and to indulge him. Less than a week later, Charley was admitted to the hospital. I went to see him again and he was very sick, but as always, Charley was glad to see me and he livened up when I arrived and joked about having too much to do to be laid up in a hospital bed. He assured me boisterously that he would be up and running in a day or two. Instead, Charley took an immediate turn for the worse and was put on a ventilator. After a week of struggle with a combination of health problems, Charley passed away last Friday. I felt happy that I had made the effort to see Charley, for I had no notion that he would be gone so soon.
My friend, David Mitro, who lives in south Florida, is a former business associate of mine who became a good friend. When Dave was diagnosed with lung cancer a couple of years ago, we talked often on the phone as I followed his struggles with surgery and recurring complications. For the past month or two I have been preoccupied with my own life and I failed to call and check on Dave. A few days ago I called and Dave was on another call. His voice sounded weak, but he seemed glad to hear from me and asked me to call back. I promised I would. I waited a week and called again. They had buried Dave that morning. He died only four days after my phone call. I felt badly that I did not make that call sooner.
I imagine just about everybody can tell a story similar to these. We sometimes lose touch with our friends and the next thing we know, they are gone. No matter how inevitable death is, it always seems to be unexpected and there always seems to be something that we shoulda said, or coulda said, or woulda said – but we didn't.
Good friends are precious, but even more precious are family members. Not only do we share numerous personal memories with our family members extending throughout our lives, but we also share the same blood, the same genetics. As sons and daughters we often discover as we grow older that we are more like our parents than we thought, or sometimes more than we want to be.
I recently visited another old friend, a man in his mid-80's who now lives alone as a widower. I have known this man and his entire family since my youth. I was in awe of him then, both on account of his large physical stature and for his commanding and intimidating presence. Many years ago I came to know him as one adult to another and we became friends, and have been good personal friends through the ensuing years. Though I continue to respect, admire and love this man, I see character flaws in him that I did not see when I was younger. One of his most prominent character flaws happens to be stubbornness. Some have even described him as fractious, and I would not argue against the accuracy of that description.
My friend has passed along some of his best and worst qualities to his children. In fact, some of them are as equally stubborn as their father. The result: he is estranged from several of his children as a result of family disagreements and conflicts. This man is not a person usually given to sentimentalities, but as we visited together for several hours, it became obvious to me that he was greatly saddened over this situation, yet he was too stubborn and prideful to initiate a reconciliation to correct it. I can only suppose that his estranged children are of a like mind. I'm sure they have their reasons. As we parted company, my friend demonstrated a sentimentality that I have never known him to do. He pulled out his wallet and proudly showed me an old, faded family picture of his deceased wife and their children.
As this Thanksgiving holiday approaches, there will be many families who are separated involuntarily. This is unfortunate. But, more unfortunate, are those families who will voluntarily allow another year to pass with fences unmended. There will be fathers and mothers who love their children, but are too stubborn to tell them. And there will be sons and daughters who despise their parents for their failures, and consequently have alienated them from their lives. On this holiday, I am saddened by the recent deaths of my friends, Charley and Dave, but I am more saddened to know that many families still have time to talk and work out their issues, but don't. I hope they will come to realize (sooner, rather than later) that the clock is a'tickin' and when the day is done, it's done!
Lloyd Albritton is a columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be contacted at LloydAlbritton@aol.com.