Planning Ahead. Really?

Looking Forward Makes No Sense

My father had a goal of reaching age 100. He came very close, dying in Herzliya at almost 98. One might think that he lived a careful and cautious life to reach such advanced old age. One would be so wrong!

Dad ate all the wrong things. Liver was a staple of his life. So was salami and eggs. Foods that encouraged high cholesterol were high on his list.

And his driving was a miracle. He was never in an accident although he had a disdain for safety measures in his assorted lifetime of vehicles. He never used the car’s signals, those newfangled devices that were actually inside the vehicle. He also never used the hand signals that his generation was taught. He just expected the people behind him, or opposing him in traffic, would figure out his next move.

His tires were always bald. Every family trip was marked by a flat tire. And I really mean every trip. We used to factor the flats into our trip plan. The worst was on the highway we New Jerseyans hate, The Pulaski Skyway, at night. With no shoulders and no emergency blinkers yet invented, we huddled in our seats as Pop, the ever devoted grandfather who shared our lives, directed traffic with his cane. We survived.

I think of this as I contemplate more sober thoughts of life today, long after my father serenely left this earth.

We listen to pundits on TV discussing future elections and I wonder how they can possibly know who will actually be alive in 2020 to run for office. The truth is, they can’t know. They postulate but no one knows anything. Really. The next election will happen with certainty but the results may surprise the pundits and the rest of us who will complain that no one saw this coming.

A few weeks ago a horrible attack took place in a synagogue on Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh. Until that horrendous moment the people in that shul felt safe, surrounded by people and things they loved. All of those people had been frightened at some point in their lives. Maybe a medical diagnosis. Maybe an accident. Maybe something else. Never did they think that going to shul would be the cause of their deaths. That would have defied logic. Shul is a sanctuary. That’s what we call the place where we pray. It’s safe and it’s often exactly the place we go to seek comfort and support. We don’t go to shul to be murdered. No one saw this coming. Our shul is now embarking on a security campaign. Unprecedented and expensive. Most hopefully, unneeded.

And then there’s Malibu. Who hasn’t gawked at the magnificent homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Fire ignored wealth and success and struck without hesitation. And the decimated neighboring communities. We don’t expect to hear news like this from sunny California. So many dead. So unbelievably many missing and presumed dead. No one saw this coming either. Now, will the rains bring further havoc?

And speaking of not seeing something coming. There was a snowstorm this November in New Jersey. It was unexpected. Well, really it was expected but it wasn’t expected to be so bad. So no one at all was prepared. The snowstorm took all the experts by surprise and all the people who make decisions about closing schools and closing work places were unprepared. My family was not immune and I’m sure, if you were in New Jersey that day, you were similarly stuck in the worst major traffic jam in the state’s history. You couldn’t get home. You couldn’t move in your shiny expensive car with all of its great safety features. Your automatic headlights and air bags and rear view cameras didn’t do anything . You just couldn’t move. Hour after hour after hour. How could this be happening? Eight hours to go a mile? Only one lesson: keep enough gas in your tank. Lots of abandoned cars on our highways attest to the wisdom of that. No one saw this coming either.

And so we think if we eat healthy (a category which is always changing) and drive carefully and get our checkups at the doctor (oops……Sam never ever did that!) we’ll be fine.

But really, will we? Where’s that guarantee?

And the lesson to all this: there is no lesson. Be lucky.

About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of two. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.
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