Sunday, May 27, 2012

$15 Late Fee

It was August 2007 and my wife and I were eating dinner in the kitchen when her mother came out of her bedroom – we moved in with Lisa’s mother four years prior to help her battle cancer.  She let me know that I mailed the check for her credit card late and there is now a $15 late fee.  It ended up being a pretty big deal in the house. Even Lisa let me know she wasn’t happy. 

I put myself back in that memory and I struggle to make sense of the tension that night.  I find myself reliving the moment, but altering the conversation, “Deena, Lisa, don’t worry about $15, even though neither of you feel sick, in less than 9 months you’ll both be taken away from this family.  Let’s focus on each other and enjoy our time together.”  Lisa’s mother lost her battle with colon cancer April 2008, my wife passed from breast cancer in July of that same year.

With all the apps out there that will even tell us what to wear.  Isn’t there one that shows upcoming bills and says “A reminder to remit this month’s credit card payment.  Please note, this is your 12 month warning your life is ending, adjust your priorities accordingly.”

Because that is the only way I am not going to put over importance to the world of $15 late fees.  I would love to think that I can go through life enjoying it more, knowing our time here is short.  Looking back on how mad everyone was over $15, and now two of the three people in that conversation are dead, burns me up.  But I know I never would've said that night, “Come on, this tension is silly.  I'll miss both of you, if for some strange reason, you both were to die next year.  Let’s play cards.”

It frustrates me to walk around trying to be idealistic in a non idealistic world.  I see things that are trivial all the time.  While I understand there are bigger issues to worry about, I also understand that trivial issues will always be legitimate.  I find myself having a debate with myself when I see one of them come up:

 “This is like the tenth car commercial I’ve seen today.  Do we really put that much of our identity into the car we drive?  We focus too much on stupid crap and miss out on thoughts for deeper meaning.”

“Matt, you know better, new cars are important.  Buying one doesn’t mean you do not understand the true meaning of life.  Stop this nonsense.”

“No, I don’t care.  I want to see commercials that focus less on external importance and more for internal growth.”

“You know that’s not going to happen, so quit causing trouble.  You start acting like this and you’ll lose friends.”

So, it goes on and on and I continue my life.  Finding the right balance of understanding the small issues people choose to make high priority and not understanding getting upset over stupid topics like a $15 late fee.  But I have to be careful, as I see ridiculous issues every day, and if I let it get to me, will eat me up.  It’s a free world and people have a right to put the focus anywhere they want.  Heck, sports are a place for many of the non important issues I see. Yet, I like sports as much as the next person, nothing wrong with following games for enjoyment. 

As a matter of fact, I can’t believe that football has already their started summer camps.  I saw Jay Cutler from the Chicago Bears excited about his new receivers – I share that excitement.  I remember how happy I was when Cutler was traded from Denver.  That was crazy how that all blew up.  The owner of the Broncos wrote a letter to his season ticket holders trying to quell the storm over getting rid of a Pro Bowl quarterback.

I remember reading about how angry the fans were in Denver.  One fan wrote to the paper, “What do I tell my kids? We don't have a quarterback; we don't have a defense.  His letter to us season ticket holders does nothing to ease my mind." 

Wait, did he just say, what do I tell my kids?  I can totally relate to what this guy is going through.  As a matter of fact, I had to have almost the same conversation of, "what do I tell my kids" a few years ago. The only small difference was, mine was telling them that their mother had…. (deep breath) “I will not let this eat me up, I will not let this eat me up, I will not…..”


  1. I so agree with you o this issue! It burns me up too! I see couples in the market arguing and I want to shake then and say "Stop fighting, one of you could be dead tomorrow!" I am also frustrated with the online datig sites, where looks and things like being a world traveler is of ultimate importance! What happened to love, faithfulness, kindness! Although I can say I did not want the wisdom of knowing the difference in the way we have obtained it,by losing our loved ones, I am glad I now know what is trivial verses what is important. It is the one important trait we will have to share with the next love in our life if we choose to look for another love, besides the widows burden of always remembering those we lost. We will be better partners than those who have not suffered such a loss.

  2. Yeah! Every day - all of the time.
    I think if there is any "gift" to get or understanding to have. It is what you have articulated here.
    What were we thinking? Why did we care? Why can't we let the small stuff go? We are all dying! All of us! Why are we wasting so much fckg time!!!!!
    I feel that now more than ever.
    There are little dialogues I have with myself like "really! You are actually going to waste time doing . . . . ?"
    I always think if my husband was alive. . . what would he be doing with his time. I had a dream about him last night. He was in bed and he was crying - this heart wrenching terrible sorrowful cry. He was crying because he was dying.
    I woke up feeling desperately sad and I lay there wishing I could change it all. Turn back the clock, make it the way it was "supposed" to be - him and me in love until we were old people.
    I felt -that heavy weight of not being able to do a thing. It happened.
    He is gone.
    So I make myself get up and get dressed to walk the dog.
    Take myself outside . . . not waste time laying in bed.
    Because he wouldn't.
    He would be living. In full colour.
    I have to try.
    Thanks for the reminder Matt.

  3. How very insightful, Matt, I tell my kids (in their 20's) all the time to focus on what REALLY matters. Let the pettiness of the day go, you may not have another chance, they know too well what here today, gone tomorrow really means.

    "Living in the present takes full effort and concentration. When we practice living in the "now", we realize each moment is special. We will never experience this exact circumstance in this way again. We will never see these sights, hear these words, feel these emotions in the same way ever again. Concentrate on savoring and enjoying the moment at hand so it is not a lost jewel, but a valued treasure." Janice Lynne Lundy

    Not only concentrate on the moment, but concentrate on what is really important in that moment, let the petty details go. We know all too well how life can change in an instant.

  4. I appreciate your honesty and where you are at in life. Though a horrible experience, the death of my spouce makes me even more aware of what really matters. I am so greatful I can ignor the petty to help the true needs that are out there.

    Thank you for sharing a reality faced by those who have lost and just need honest encouragement instead of fluffed up indignation.

    Always, @claiib_leslie

  5. Thank you. I often wonder why it is that it takes death to remind us all the small things we appreciate in life. I miss my husband so much. If only I could tell him how much.

  6. Yeah, if only......

  7. Home Depot is the place that drives me crazy. Couples arguing over banana yellow vs. neon yellow paint. Really? Is it THAT important? I wish I had someone to argue with about paint colors, but he's gone. Get over yourselves! That's what I'd like to tell them.