“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”
My Friend Gabe
Have we become so dishonest with ourselves, that we blame everybody else for our mistakes and shortcomings? Do we ever accept the fact that perhaps, maybe, sometimes, we all make mistakes? That it’s ok to make an occasional blunder?
Someone with way more brain cells than me once said; “too err is human.” Why do we have such hard time accepting the fact that we make mistakes and perhaps we are not always right? Some even will take a position out of total ignorance and stand firm behind it. Because…yes, they are that stubborn. (Psst…and sometimes that ignorant).
While I was living in Challans, France many moons ago, at our local pub right across the street from our two bedroom flat. (I’ll never forget that place…second floor, two tiny bedrooms and a refrigerator smaller than the one in my dorm room in college, right above the bank in the center of the town). I happened to be standing at the bar having my post game ritual beer or two or three…you get the picture. And this older chap came up to me and said; “you have to be the American that plays on the basketball team?” A little shocked at his ‘Americanized’ English with a little hint of a Brooklyn accent — actually New Jersey I learned later. I said; “yes I am one of the two.” He smiled and introduced himself as Gabe Fischer. I was really shocked to meet another Yankee abroad in this particular area of France. After all, this wasn’t Paris, the Riviera or even the Wine Region! This was a area of France called Vendee and Americans usually didn’t spring up there. Definitely not in the ‘Fromer’s’ guide book.
To make a long story short, I learned that Gabe had been part of the American Forces that landed on the West end of France during the Normandy Invasion of World War II. He had fought hard and had lost many of his fellow soldiers and friends during the invasion and suffered huge bouts of depression over the years because of it. Something we would call now “Post Traumatic Stress.”
Gabe told me while he was in France, he had had a chance meeting with a beautiful woman who spoke no English and he at the time spoke very few words in French. Like Gabe would say; “I knew how to ask for the bathroom and where was the bar?” But he knew that Violet was the girl of his dreams.
When the war ended, Gabe went back to the states, began working on the docks or other labor jobs, all the while wanting to return to Challans to find Violet. It took him many years and he did make his return in 1958, found his lost love and made her Mrs. Fischer. — What a Great Story.
Except, that’s not what I want to rant about today. My friend Gabe became one of the first mentor’s in my life. He would listen to me intently. Always asking more questions, deeper questions. All the while he and I would be sharing beers or maybe coffee. Sometimes even wine. Well, he drank the vino and I drank the Coca Cola!
I played on a really good team while in Challans. (In fact recently an old teammate of mine just posted a few photos on Facebook from that era. Perhaps that’s what got me reflecting on all of this?).
I/we had a period of a slump where as a team we did not play well. And like many hard headed, immature athletes I was constantly blaming others and pointing out their mistakes while not even considering the fact that perhaps I wasn’t pulling my weight?!? Heck…I didn’t bring the ball up the court, it wasn’t my fault that the ball kept getting stolen from our guards. Or why didn’t they pass me the ball more?? – selfish– Selfish – SELFISH!
Gabe being the kind old sage that he was, would listen to me blow off steam and play the ‘Blame Game’. Then one night while sitting in the back of the smoke filled bar, he brought his finger to his lips and said; “shhh.” Then when I had stopped talking he smiled at me and reach into his pocket and pulled out a very small mirror and gave it to me as a gift and said: “Before you blame others, you need to make sure you always look in the mirror first and make sure there isn’t anything you could have done different.”
From time to time, I still wish I had that mirror. Because, every once in awhile, I still find myself reacting or blaming others when in fact I should take a glance in that piece of looking glass and be able to say to myself HONESTLY: “Yes, I have done all that I can do.”
If I/We have truly done our jobs, acted on the BEST interest of others and can honestly say; “I did my best”, then we should be able to hold our heads high and move on. Accepting from time to time that we all make mistakes and have the patience’s to know that it will work itself out. Just like a bad series of basketball games.
I lost contact with Gabe too many years ago. I imagine still to this day the old guy with the leather jacket, having a beer, home on his little farm with his Violet.
Thanks for allowing me to rant.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”