Don’t Trade Off What You Can’t Get Back

What matters in our lives is true connection with ourselves and with others.

My father was a horse trader of sorts, a salesman in the 50’s and 60’s who sold advertising for Bibles placed in doctor’s offices. He was extraordinarily handsome with striking blue eyes, and he could sway even the most reluctant customer to buy what he was selling. One flash of his smile and blue eyes, and it was a done deal.

Though he became fabulously successful in his field, he had an arch nemesis — alcohol. He began drinking in his teens as a way to cope with violent abuse from his father. Drinking first became a habit, then a way of life in the military, then a social function in society, and finally a means to an end in a lonely hotel room. Alcohol was the last friend he saw before he died.

Ted Hodges

Ted Hodges

In between drunken bouts, when he was sober and the person I loved so much, he would share parts of himself with me. He would offer gems of insights — sound bites of wisdom. “Life Lessons,” he would say. Little did he know that his life itself was a life lesson for me.

One time he quite randomly said, “Tami, don’t ever trade off what you can’t get back.” He was sitting in his favorite chair, reflecting on something in his life, perhaps a time where he had given away something he couldn’t get back — relationships, career, family, himself. We sat in silence the rest of the time together.

Another time he mused, “Tami, I can promise you this: no matter what you do in life, no matter how bad a deed you commit, I’ll never break communication with you.”

I was in the passenger seat, and he was dropping me back off at college. He said it right before I got out. I looked at him with a puzzled expression on my face; we had just been talking about current things — nothing big deal, normal pleasantries said as you wrap up time together. It came out of the blue. But, for some reason, he felt the need to say it, almost as if he had remembered something. His voice was tinged with regret and sadness. I gave him a hug and thanked him for our special time together. I thanked him for loving me unconditionally. Though my father died while I was still in college, he left me with a wealth of wisdom taken straight from the soundtrack of his life.

What matters in our lives is true connection with ourselves and with others, not drive-by relationships — meaningful ones. They are the rare jewels in our lives. They are the ones we can’t value enough, the ones we shouldn’t trade off and can’t get back if we do.

And all of us would like to know that we are loved unconditionally no matter what we say or do. That we won’t be cast aside as trash for the misdeeds we may commit in our lives. We have to own our part in things, but it is important to have someone, anyone, holding the space for us to fall down and be there when we get back up again.

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