I recently learned that my most influential mentor is fading fast with dementia. His son and I were visiting about some business and he asked if I had talked to his dad, Frank. I told him that we had not visited since early December. Doug told me I might want to make another call soon because he wouldn't be taking calls much longer. That his mom is now having to help his dad dress and he just wanders the house in a daze.
When we spoke in December, the conversation was cordial though brief. Nothing like I had hoped or planned. He seemed distant or indifferent. I suppose I assumed that Frank had little time for me since I had little time for him over the past decade.
Frank purchased a business park early in my career and kept me on as the leasing agent to work with Doug. Little did I know such a simple assignment would change my professional life forever. He taught me more about commercial real estate in a month than I had learned in the prior three years. It was rare exposure to someone exceedingly successful that didn't walk the ethical or moral tightrope. Frank was honest and caring while still being firm and sure. I would not be the man or professional I am today without him.
We stayed in touch for several years after I left his tutelage to join the company I work for now. My regret is not that I stopped working for Frank. No, that has worked out well beyond great. My regret is that I quit calling and writing him about a decade ago. I guess I got busy or too self important. Once some time had passed, I convinced myself that he didn't need me hanging on. He had better things to do and more important people to talk to. I didn’t want to interfere with the blessing he was likely being to another youngster in the business.
Only after I became a mentor to a young real estate professional this past fall did I realize that I had screwed up. In no way would I want this guy I was working with to feel I had better things to do. Not now, next week, or next year. I care about him and his family. I hope to hear about his successes for years to come.
With this newfound understanding, I muscled up the courage to call Frank. I wanted to catch up, but tell him that I am sorry for not calling all this time. I wanted to tell him what I fool I had been and that I missed him. When he abruptly ended the conversation I just assumed he had indeed moved on and didn't want me crawling back into his life. I mean, who could blame him? What did I have to offer?
Still determined to say my peace, I penned a note that said all I had planned to say on the phone. The letter came back as undeliverable. Had they moved? Couldn't have. I am sure I had that correct.
At that point I decided to give up. If nothing else it was a sign to let it go. I had missed my opportunity to prolong the friendship.
Then, I talked to Doug. My heart sank. I was too late. Too late to rekindle the old banter. How could I have let that happen?
I am sad for the reminder that some things cannot wait. Tomorrow may not get here. Tomorrow may not be soon enough. Later can and may often be too late. Some lessons only come the hard way.
Run in Peace, Rest in Grace