So here's why I'm upset with myself this week.

I didn't respond right away to an e-mail from Patty Heal, a former student of mine I haven't seen for nearly three (three!) decades. I was THRILLED to hear from her.

I remember Patty vividly, which is why I wanted to wait until I had time to write a long chatty letter, telling her how much I loved hearing from her and thanking her for reaching across the years to say hello.

But when I turned on my computer this morning, Patty's e-mail was gone. Vanished! Poof! It had evaporated into the ethersphere. I did everything I could think of to retrieve it, but nothing worked.

And that's why I'm so annoyed with myself. Why didn't I take the time RIGHT THEN to say thanks?

A quick, short e-mail would have been better than no e-mail at all. And the truth is there's rarely more time in the future than there is in the present moment to do the thing we mean to do.

This experience has led me to reflect generally on the matter of expressing appreciation — how I don't always do it often enough or soon enough.

So.

Today I'm going to thank a few of the unthanked people who have earned my gratitude, starting with former students such as Patty. You guys always made me smarter.

Example: Once where we talking about funeral customs in class, I made the comment that I thought viewings were barbaric holdovers from another era. One of you told us how your mother died when you were 4 years old and that out of a misguided effort to protect you, no one allowed you to attend her viewing or her funeral.

For years you wondered why your mother abandoned you. "If I'd seen her body," you said, "I would have understood what had happened." That single story has stayed with me and changed the way I think.

Here's another group of people I want to thank — those of you who work at the places where I shop regularly: Bill at Eighth Avenue Market for always asking after my kids; Warren at Sinclair for keeping my loose change in a special basket so every fourth day I can get a free Dr Pepper; Tim at the pharmacy for filling prescriptions even before I call in; Johanna at 7-Eleven for commenting on my flowers as she walks home every day; Dave at Smith's for his unfailing friendliness first thing on a Saturday morning; Chris and Mike at Western Garden, who resist the temptation to say, "What are YOU doing here again?"

Oh! And I want to mention our vet, Dr. Blotter, and his assistant, Annette, who have taken care of all our dogs. And cats. And birds (including the parrot), too.

Oh, yeah, and thanks for taking care of my mother's poodle, too.

Thanks, also, to all the delivery guys who come to our door. The UPS guys. The FedEx guys. The mail people. I'm pretty sure I've never said "good job!" to you before. So I'm saying it now.

Then there's our neighbor, Joe. Joe! Thanks for mowing our lawn and shoveling our sidewalks. One day I am so going to bake you a pie!

Anyway, you all make my life better, and I thought you should know it. Meanwhile, Patty, if you read this, please e-mail me back.


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