Neil Diamond announced recently that he was no longer touring due to Parkinson’s disease. He performed several years in a row around Christmas in Indianapolis years ago. The one song not in his normal set list that he always performed in Indy was “Back Home Again in Indiana.” And he did it pretty well – Jim Nabors did it better. That might make you say “golly,” but draw it out like Gomer did. There is no other way to say it when talking about Nabors. He died November 30 last year. The last time Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indianapolis 500 was May 28, 2014 – that’s 42 years after the first time he performed the song there. One thing that made him special performing that was the surprise by so many who had no idea that Nabors could sing well. That was less frequent over the years. He was good. And you could argue that at age 87 he was done too soon. Diamond is 77 and plans to continue working, but not touring, and one could argue that his touring ended too soon, regardless of their opinion of his performances.
The fact is that no one necessarily lives too long. There’s always more to do. There comes a time for many when that does not appear to be true. A friend of mine in the 1990s spent a good deal of time assessing his life and working with those he trusted in analyzing his life, what had been accomplished, where he was, what was left. He decided life had been good and there was no more to do. He sat down, wrote some letters, and then ended his life. My thought has always been that he was done too soon, but that was my opinion. In his mind, he had no more, no more to do. Life had been good to him.
Yes, we can backtrack to that “no one lives too long” comment and think of people who suffered in their last months or years. My mom spent the last couple of years of her life appearing not to know anyone – she had introduced me for several years prior as her brother and then became non-communicative, at least to me. Still, did she live too long? One could argue she didn’t live long enough to find a cure for the various ailments that took their toll on her life. I never saw her suffering, but those last years were hard to assess how she felt from her perspective. There are likely many who saw loved ones suffer and could argue that they were not done too soon. Still, there never seems to be a good time to say goodbye.
My gut feeling is that younger generations (whether kids or grandkids or great-grandkids…) may not seize on that reality that parents or other relatives might have something to offer until maybe it’s too late.
Some of my biggest regrets were not to have spent more time with my grandma and my mom before they were no longer able to communicate with me as well or remember things that might have later become important to me. Another was not to have pursued a better search for my dad earlier – he died about a year after my graduation from Indiana, before the Internet was out there for all to use. His death popped up one day in a Social Security records search. What could have been done earlier? Well, there was the rumor that he moved to Terre Haute, Indiana. A search of phone directories and other tools did not locate him during his life, but that’s where he died and where he’s buried. Yes, he’s had a visit from his oldest son in the cemetery. The search was too late.
But, you try. You realize you never knew much about your dad and then want to share thoughts from your life with your kids. Maybe you share pictures or write letters about your life or find some other way to try to communicate what life has been about. It’s your personal perspective. No one is a perfect parent, but most try hard. Maybe some kids of some parents don’t care or don’t appreciate the effort or cannot let go of their past. Divorce really screws up things sometimes, but, once done, all that’s left is an effort to recover. Sometimes there is recovery, sometimes there is some recovery, and other times there is questionable recovery. Your life, then, is your own – you made the bed, now sleep in it. The kids do the same.
Done too soon? Perhaps not. Oh, sure, there’s enough money to take you out a very long time, but the question pops up every now and then, “Why?” Why, indeed. Yes, for now, Izzy and Maya need me. I convince myself that is true. As Mellencamp sings, “And I ain’t even done with the night…”