My cousin Carol and I grew up together on the east side of Cleveland. Our fathers were brothers who were not overly fond of one another, so I saw Carol only when our grandmother gathered the clan together. Still, I have many wonderful memories of her, with her sunny, curly hair and a musical laugh just like her mom’s. I was more than content to play with her or walk with her along the magical black raspberry path that wound its way around the back of Nana’s yard.
When Carol was ten, her family moved to New Haven, Connecticut. Even though our times together in the past had been infrequent, I missed her. But, as children do, I suppose, we both moved on, to other friends and adventures. There was still the occasional Thanksgiving when her family would return, but more often than not, Nana went to see them in New Haven.
During my teenage years I got invited to stay with her family for a couple weeks during the summer school break. My memories of that trip are vivid and laced with love: sailing on their Sunfish, Aunt Betty teaching us how to sew. We rode bikes along the wooded streets, we sat on her bedroom floor listening to records—my first introduction to the Carpenters! We went to see Patton at the movie theater and when we came home, my uncle got his old army Bible and pulled out his copy of the “good weather prayer.” That entire two weeks was sewn onto my heart, never to be let go.
We have seen each other on occasion over the years—recently, more at funerals than anything else. When Carol took an executive position in Chattanooga, we agreed that we should get together since we were only six hours apart from one another. But, the routine of everyday sometimes takes over and those opportunities, those second chances, drift away one by one.
This past weekend, Carol and I finally took the time. We met in Berea, Kentucky, with no agenda except to be together—over half a century since she left Cleveland with her family. Our weekend was glorious. Saturday proved how beautiful a Spring day could be, and Berea’s daffodils and fruit trees were already showing their colors.
If there are now some wrinkles on both our faces, they are, for the most part, laugh lines. Her hair has a few wisps of gray, hard to see as it mixes in with the blond curls. Her voice and laugh, so reminiscent of Aunt Betty, just filled me with love. We were amazed at how alike we were, in opinion and perspective—and we talked nonstop through our time together. At the end of the weekend, we promised one another this would be a recurring event as we parted not just as cousins, but also as dear friends.
It would have been so easy to never find the time to get together. To have the next time be a wedding or another funeral. We probably wouldn’t have even understood what was lost by not making the effort. I am so grateful to both of us that we took that time, even when the distance in years had been so great.
So, I have been reflecting on second chances—even when they are the seventieth chance. They are a powerful way of doing something extraordinary amidst the every day. Of changing your path in more ways than you can imagine. My journey to fitness was certainly like that.
I hope you pause and think about where those second chances might be hiding in your life—where there might be a treasure just waiting to be found, just as my heart, once again, found Carol.