Time is valuable because each day together is so precious

  • Susan Anderson-Khleif and her late husband, Baheej, celebrating a special time together.

    Susan Anderson-Khleif and her late husband, Baheej, celebrating a special time together.

 
Posted1/18/2020 6:00 AM

Time is irreplaceable. It goes by, sometimes slowly, often quickly. We need to use time wisely and not waste it.

When I was working for Motorola, one big project I led was engineering "cycle-time reduction" for product development. It is a big challenge for companies to get their new products to market promptly, ahead of the competition. They need to be first to market.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

So when it comes to engineering, the name of the game is rapid cycle time. Engineering leaders at Motorola set a goal of a 10-times reduction in new product cycle time. We invested a lot in technology and engineering education. I led a team that collected the most recent methods and effective practices from experts in the field, and ran a worldwide institute to teach these methods to development engineers -- the inventors. It was a great success. Time cannot be replaced, and good use of it is vital to success.

One day, about a week before my husband Baheej's first stroke, we were having a little disagreement over, well nothing I suppose; I can't even remember. Then he stopped talking and said, "We shouldn't argue. We don't know how much time we have left." So we stopped and changed the subject.

A few days later we had an especially lovely trip up to Rochester, Minnesota, for our annual health check up and other matters at the Mayo Clinic. It was always a pleasant trip to go there, driving through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside. Well, we drove about 350 miles, but it is such a pretty drive.

We got to Mayo Clinic in the southeast corner of Minnesota and had our checkups. I had a biopsy surgery for a suspicious, possibly cancerous, area. Turned out OK. Baheej had a follow-up check on cataract surgery. He could see so much better! And he was so happy.

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Anyway, after a couple days, we headed out for home and we decided to stay at a favorite place on the Mississippi River for a little break before driving the rest of the way home. We went to the hotel, checked in and then decided to go on the big paddle boat up the Mississippi. We went to the dock and boarded. It was a beautiful day.

We sat on the top deck and we got our favorite drinks from the galley below: red wine for me and a vodka lemon cocktail for Baheej. He learned to enjoy that drink on a trip to Spain, sitting on a rooftop restaurant in Seville. The Mississippi was so beautiful. River turtles basked in the sun on logs and an eagle even flew overhead. Heavenly.

When we disembarked, it was hot as we walked back to the hotel, Baheej was very tired. We rested a bit and then continued walking across the big park to get back to the hotel. He was not feeling well but I thought it was his knee, or the heat.

When we got back to the hotel, we rested in the room, which had a great view of the river. Then later we went down and had a drink on the outside patio overlooking the mighty Mississippi. Eventually we went into the restaurant there -- it's great, the Three Rivers Lodge -- and Baheej had his favorite wild rice cream soup. He loved that soup. It's a Minnesota and Wisconsin specialty. Pure enjoyment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The next day, we drove home. We stopped for lunch in The Dells at Buffalo Phil's. Baheej liked the Mason jar water glass mugs so he bought four of them for us to use at home. I still have them.

Well, we got home and we were both tired by then, so we just left everything in the car and went in to watch the news. I brought us trays of open-faced Swedish-style sandwiches for supper and we just relaxed.

At about 10 p.m., I woke up, the TV was still on, and Baheej was sitting there with his shirt open and slumped to the side in the chair. He never left his shirt open. So I got up and said, "Sweetheart, why didn't you button up your shirt?" He was not conscious. I called 911 and the rest is history. He had a stroke.

There was a harrowing trip by ambulance to the emergency room, then a helicopter ride to a stroke center. He was in intensive care but eventually there was a good prognosis for recovery. I was able to stay and live with him in the hospital room, which was really more like a suite. And our luggage was still in the car from the trip so I had everything I needed.

Then about a month later, while still in the hospital, he had another stroke the day before he was supposed to go to a rehab center. He died seven weeks after the first stroke. The most awful experience of my life.

So the point is: Time is limited, valuable and must be used the very best way we possibly can. There is no time to lose.

I have no idea why Baheej said "we should not waste time" to me, but it stuck in my head. And it's so true. Just enjoy the time we have.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at sakhleif@comcast.net or see her blog longtermgrief.tumblr.com. See previous columns at www.dailyherald.com/topics/Anderson-Kleif-Susan.

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