Lisa Ricard Claro – Author

Romance is good for your heart!

One Summer Too Late: Why You Shouldn’t Wait

Posted on Oct 14, 2015 by Lisa Ricard Claro   24 Comments | Posted in The Naked Truth

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Papa at 88

Papa would be 92 today had he lived.

In many ways, I knew Papa better than my own dad, by virtue of the fact that Papa lived with us for the eight years prior to his death. Shared living conditions, day-to-day interactions, create an intimacy that is hard to duplicate over the spread of a couple thousand miles. Also, my dad—both of my parents, actually—died relatively young, at 67. I never had the opportunity to know them well into old age. We were robbed of that, and if you want the Naked Truth, I’m still kind of pissed off about it.

So, Papa would be 92. He would’ve been the coolest 92-year-old on the planet, as anyone who ever met him would agree. One of his signature lines was, “I’m not trying to make a fashion statement,” the irony being that he was a fashion statement, with his omnipresent suspenders and colorful T-shirts, TED hose, and black Nike sneakers. He was a devout Catholic, a physician, a USAF colonel and liaison to the CIA, hospital administrator, flight surgeon, Law & Order aficionado, CSI Miami fan, reader of books, amateur chef, avid boater, fisherman, world traveler, and loving grandpa. And that’s all just off the top of my head.

I concocted the brilliant idea to interview him about his life. I had visions of sitting with him in his “nest,” as he referred to his in-law suite, with a recorder set to “on,” while he detailed his earliest memories as a child growing up on Long Island and entertained me with story after story of his life. I already knew some anecdotes about Joe the Barber (“Probably mafia,” Papa said), a Fabergé egg (“The real deal, just beautiful,”), ushering at the Metropolitan Opera (“I saw all the great ones,”), and working at the Pentagon (“I retired because they wanted me to sit at a desk and ‘make policy.’ What does that even mean?”). My plan was to gather all the information, ghostwrite it, and publish it into a book for my children—not to sell, just so they’d have their grandpa’s life chronicled in his own words.

Timing is everything. I waited one summer too long. The Papa Project was on my list of things to do, but the dear man fell ill and died on us. All those stories lost, gone with his last breath.

I guess maybe I’m pissed off about that, too.

Loss is part of life, of course. We all know that—which is all the more reason not to take time for granted. Someone here today may not be here tomorrow. Nothing is promised to us except the moment we’re in.

I wasn’t quite 40 when my parents died, too busy working and raising my family to think about journaling their stories. The thought never crossed my mind. And Papa—what was I thinking, waiting until “next summer” to record his memories? He was almost 89 for heaven’s sake. We children seem to forget that as we’re ageing, our parents are ageing also. In our minds, our parents are ageless in many ways, aren’t they? No matter how old they get, we still think them capable of doing anything, like the superheroes we always suspected them to be.

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Mama & Me, probably 1985

One of my last memories of my mom is of the two of us running—yes, running!—to catch a plane in Logan airport. I had traveled with Mama to her 50th high school reunion in Massachusetts, and we discovered last minute that we could carry live lobsters home with us. Giggling like schoolgirls, we clutched our boxed crustaceans and hot-footed it to our departure gate. Mama ran beside me, huffing and puffing, laughing at our lack of decorum as we raced the clock. I look back now and wonder where I misplaced my common sense. Mama was 67, would die a scant three months later from heart failure, and there I was dragging her along with me at a rabbit’s pace, because God forbid we should miss our flight. Let me tell you, though, she was game. That mad dash wasn’t very smart, but it was fun for both of us. That counts for something. Still, if I could have a do-over, I’d miss the flight and sit down with my mother over a cocktail at the airport bar and let her tell me her tales.

The missed opportunities break my heart.

Do you still have your parents and grandparents with you? In-laws? Talk to them now. Record their stories. Let them tell you their anecdotes. Take it off your “to-do” list and put it on your “do it now” list. Are you another year older? Well, so are they. Don’t wait.

Thanks for hanging out with me. Leave a comment and tell me one of your tales.

See you Friday for Observations from the Tub.

Lisa

Romance is good for your heart! To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last in eBook or Print, go to  AmazonBarnes & NobleBlack Opal BooksKobo, or AllRomance.

24 Responses to "One Summer Too Late: Why You Shouldn’t Wait"

  1. Comment by Kathy M.
    October 14, 2015 at 10:46 am  

    Oh, Lisa. Thanks for the great reminder. I remember when Papa died, and am glad that he got to live with you guys for so long. I wish that I would have did a sit down interview with my Grandma J., that is for sure. <3

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm  

      Yes, we were fortunate. Papa was one of a kind. 🙂

  2. Comment by Theresa Sanders
    October 14, 2015 at 11:13 am  

    Such a gorgeous, heartwarming post, Lisa. Love it. My dad died at 68, so I know what you mean about feeling robbed of his later years. We just never know. Thanks so much for this timely reminder.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:22 pm  

      Thanks for your comment, Teri.

  3. Comment by Rob
    October 14, 2015 at 11:20 am  

    Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I had asked more questions.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:23 pm  

      Me too. I also wonder how much I missed because I wasn’t paying attention.

  4. Comment by Claudia
    October 14, 2015 at 11:24 am  

    Waiting too long is true more times than not. But sometimes you can’t convince those around you how short and valuable time is even if you yourself do know! I have lost so many and no one really left to tell the tales. The few left can’t remember or get it right. Even those my age who shared my time grow less in number and many of them are not interested. I guess I have a family overall that is not interested in the past anyway. I have tried hard to establish my Cherokee blood line and even a paid reseracher said, “Your people really did not want to be found.” Glad you have the good memories you do have…maybe the Papa Project can still be done in some way!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:24 pm  

      Unfortunately, Claudia, without Papa here, I’d be afraid of getting things wrong. I remember a lot of what we told me, but don’t trust myself to get it 100% correct.

  5. Comment by Debra Mayhew
    October 14, 2015 at 12:25 pm  

    Papa sounds like such an amazing man who lived an amazing life. I loved reading about your memories – maybe there’s still some way to compile those into a book for your children. If anyone can make it happen, it’s you. My aunt once sat down with her parents and just talked to them. She recorded the conversation on a cassette tape and it’s a family treasure. We can hear Grandpa and Grandma talk about how they grew up together and stories about raising nine kids. To hear their laughter, even though they are both gone, is such a priceless treasure.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:25 pm  

      How lucky you are to have that tape! I wish I’d had the foresight to do that.

  6. Comment by Chelley
    October 14, 2015 at 12:45 pm  

    Bittersweet..thanks for the reminder my sweet friend.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:26 pm  

      xoxoxo 🙂

  7. Comment by Cathy C. Hall
    October 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm  

    Oh, yes, I can still see Papa, walker-ing out the church. But you know, you were lucky to spend so much time with him! I miss my mom every day but I’m glad for all those long afternoons, sitting on the porch at Tybee. I don’t remember all the details of those conversations, but I remember the love. And that’s enough, I think. Hugs, Lisa! ♥

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:27 pm  

      Well, I guess it has to be enough. We were fortunate to have him with us. I’d forgotten that you knew him from church. 🙂

  8. Comment by Tammy
    October 14, 2015 at 3:13 pm  

    What a lovely (and wise) post. That wisdom was hard won, I know. Mine died in my thirties, and I’m pissed, too – especially because my children will never remember them. Anniversaries are hard. I’m so sorry about your parents and your Papa.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm  

      Yes, that part is tough, too—my kids don’t really remember my parents. They knew Papa, of course, because he lived with us, but my parents were on the other side of the country and visits were few. Everybody missed out, because they would have so enjoyed each other.

  9. Comment by Pat
    October 14, 2015 at 3:16 pm  

    My parents are also both gone. Hubby’s parents remain, but his mother struggles with memory and his father is so busy caring for her that he hasn’t time to talk about the past. Maybe I’ll give it a try, though. It would be a shame to have those remembrances lost.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:30 pm  

      Well, you know I’m all for that, Pat. Better to ask questions and get only a few answers than to ask none and get none. You’ll be glad you asked.

  10. Comment by ButtonsMom2003
    October 14, 2015 at 4:36 pm  

    I lost my dad in 1990; he was only 69 and had only been retired 5 years. I think this is one of the reasons that I retired as early as I did (at 56). Mom’s been gone just 2 years and was 89. My in-laws have been gone over 7 years. My dad’s death was the hardest because of his age and the suddenness of it (he was on vacation overseas). Thanks for sharing your memories with us and for the reminder that time is precious.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm  

      Something else we have in common. My mom’s death was sudden and unexpected, and because it was, dealing with it was excruciating. My dad had been ill for a long time, and though his passing certainly hurt, it wasn’t unexpected, so there was time to mentally prepare. All loss it hard…

  11. Comment by Mary Lou Boucher
    October 14, 2015 at 9:23 pm  

    Thank you for this great article and reminder to us all!!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      October 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm  

      Thanks for your comment!

  12. Comment by Linda O'Connell
    October 15, 2015 at 3:40 pm  

    Lisa this is beautiful, heart wrenching, uplifting, exciting…you and mama running. I met with elderly aunts yesterday who informed me grandpa courted grandma on a horse, which instantly set off a huge sibling argument. That’s not true!79 yr old. Her Twin: Is too! 87 yr old, I;m the oldest and I never heard that! you’re both crazy. Am not, are too OH MY!

  13. Comment by Sioux
    October 15, 2015 at 11:50 pm  

    Lisa–People who hesitate or put it off–don’t. I was too late with my mom. It left a void that will never be filled.


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