I’ve had dreams. No, perhaps it would be better to call them ambitions. I’ve had ambitions. A lot of them were selfish, self centered and wrong. I had ambitions to be a rich and famous songwriter. I had ambitions to be a plant manager, with many people reporting to me. Self importance ruled my productive years. Self absorption ruined them.
You know what I really should have done? I should have tried to make people happy. That’s it. I should have helped more people.
If I’m honest, I guess it’s incorrect of me to say I was totally selfish. That first paragraph is a harsher judgment on myself than the judgment of people I have worked with, and who worked for me. I’m pretty sure I was actually better thought of than I realized. One incident stands out in my mind.
I had a pretty big group of ladies who worked for me back in the eighties. Whenever I would demo a new song I had written I would let them listen to the results. Of course they said they liked them, heck I was their boss, after all. Right before one of the ladies retired I made her a cassette tape of all my music. She said she really wanted one. Years later I got a call from another of the ladies who was related to her. It seems she had a stroke and was bed bound. She had worn out her tape and wanted another one. I made another one, found out where she lived, and went to her house.
Her husband met me at the door and warned me her condition wasn’t good. Her stroke had been severe, and she couldn’t move and could barely speak. I spent some time with her. It wasn’t good. She was agitated and depressed, discouraged with her life. She had been that way for several years. She was ready to die, she said. She was happy to have a new tape though. It perked her up a little.
I got a call from her husband a few weeks later telling me she had passed away. The last thing she listened to before she slipped into a coma was that tape of me singing. I didn’t know what to say.
I think back on that now and consider my ambition a success. Not for the reason which I had wanted, but for that one person who needed it, all the time and effort was worth it.
I’ve changed a lot in the years since then. I still wish I had made a better effort at helping people, at making them happy. Maybe I actually did more than I knew, but was just too busy being busy to notice. Damn, I wish I had taken the time to notice. All you kids out there take an old man’s advice and pay attention. Gratitude is a hell of a lot better than money sometimes.