Procrastinating Planning? Heed this Warning from “Ray Ray”

For those of us who are putting off something until “tomorrow,” I recently had a wake-up call to remind us that time is zooming by faster than we realize. The wake-up jolt happened as my daughter’s family was packing for their move from Dallas back to New York. The story centers around my oldest grandchild Stella (age 9) and her little baby doll (or “lovey”) that she named “Ray Ray.” (Warning: You may want to have a Kleenex handy.)

Like most little kids, Stella became attached to Ray Ray as an infant. It’s common for kids to cling to a comfort object like a blankie, stuffed animal, or other soft object. It provides them security, especially at bedtime or when adjusting to a new situation. Stella took Ray Ray everywhere, and cared for her as if she were her own little baby. We all understood how much Ray Ray meant to Stella. Once when Stella dropped Ray Ray from her stroller on an evening walk, I retraced our steps with a flashlight and found Ray Ray on the street, thankfully before a car ran over her. Another time, when movers were packing Stella’s family for a move from New York to Dallas three years ago, they accidentally packed Ray Ray in a box. It was weeks before Stella and Ray Ray were reunited, and it was quite a heartwarming reunion to witness. I knew the day would come when Stella would move on from Ray Ray, but I wasn’t prepared for how it would affect me. That day came a couple of weeks ago, and I’m still fighting back tears.

Packing for this move, we were determined to avoid the mistake of Ray Ray winding up again in a moving box. When we gathered Ray Ray and other items to keep separate, Stella announced this gut-punch: “I don’t need Ray Ray anymore. I don’t care if you bring her with us.” All of a sudden, I felt the swift passage of time. I didn’t feel any older, but in a flash, Stella was no longer a little girl. It called to mind lyrics from Babes in Toyland that always gets to me: “Toyland, toyland, little girl and boy land…. Once you pass its borders, you can ne’er return again.” Time marches on; it doesn’t wait till we’re ready.

Here’s my takeaway: For all those things we’re putting off till the future (whether something we need to do or a joy we’re postponing), the future is now. Time flies, and as we get older, it speeds up even more. As Chaim Potok alerted us in The Chosen, in the big scheme of things, a lifetime is no more than “the blink of an eye.” The key is to fill that blink with meaning. My wife Laurie’s grandfather Albert Herzberg said to do that, you have to be intentional. He lived by a “three a day” motto: Before his head hit the pillow at night, he required himself to do three “good turns” each day. Laurie’s mother Aimee Kriger lived by that motto too. It’s hard to do, but it certainly adds up to a life filled with meaning.

Is there something you’re putting off? Estate Planning? Red File? Legacy Letter? Business Succession Planning? Family Meeting? Stella reminds us that time is sweeping by faster than we think.

I can hear Tevye & Golde in “Fiddler on the Roof,” singing at their daughter’s wedding:

“Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?…

Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.”

Now where’s that Kleenex?

Marvin E. Blum

Left photo: Marvin Blum’s granddaughter Stella clinging to her lovey “Ray Ray” three years ago, rescued from a moving box after weeks of separation: “Reunited and it feels so good!” Center photo: Ray Ray, thankfully still “alive” after a long journey from New York to Dallas. Right photo: Stella Savetsky today (age 9), growing up faster than her grandfather Marvin Blum can handle.