Facing Regret

Do you have regrets?  Face it we all do, whether it was that stock investment that we gambled on or whether it was a career or school decision, we have all done things that we look back on with remorse, or at the very least, disappointment.

Then there are regrets for the things we didn’t do.  Here is a bittersweet story of my discovery this morning and how I was touched by the experience.

This is the story of an old friend named Lee. When I quit college after a semester at LSU, finding out that I was not destined to become an Architect, I came back to New Jersey. During a spring in the late 70s, I got a job at Sears, Roebuck & Co.  I had worked there during the previous summer, and got a full-time job working in the stockroom.  I worked hard, and was transferred after a couple of months to the Customer Service Department, where I worked with a varied group of employees made up of young adults just out of college and middle-agers working full-time or as a second job.  One of the second job folks was a School Teacher named Rocky Marciano (Leonard, but he always went by Rocky).  We call that a “Side Hustle” these days, but when you are a teacher all day long, then have to work evenings and Saturdays, believe me, it’s not a hustle, it’s a job…

Across the hall was the Credit Department, and there were several other kids like myself working between schools, or just out of college, and it provided great camaraderie during lunch breaks and after work (we even had a bowling league at Sears).  Lee worked in the credit department.  We were about the same age, and had some common interests, so we spent a lot of time together in the cafeteria and break room, talking about girlfriends, music, and the like.  I worked there on and off for a few years, and both Lee and I eventually went on to other endeavors.  I went to music school at Montclair State and he went to school at Seton Hall (Business and Computer Science).  I remember the Computer Science part, because one of our joint responsibilities at Sears was to access the Computer when a customer reported a lost or a stolen credit card, and put a lock on their account, so I knew of his interest.

Lee and I did not hang out together much after work or socially, so I lost touch with him over the years, but held onto one piece of correspondence that I received from him.  One day I got an inter-office envelope (a joke, we worked across the hall from each other) containing an onion-skin memorandum (younger generation will have to Google that), that said something to the effect of “It’s a little rough, but it’s from the heart.  Let’s make our million and get the hell out of here”.  Attached to the memo was a paper with a set of lyrics that he wrote, and wanted me to set to music.

I worked on it but never finished the song.  But I did keep his memo and the lyrics, and years later actually put music to his words, but by this time I had no idea where he went, and did not know how to find him.  So this sat in my “unfinished” folder for decades.

Fast forward to the 21st century…

A couple of years ago I was going through some folders and found our song (he titled it “Just for Bucks” – a song about a lost love) and with our now-available social media technology was able to track Lee down through Facebook and LinkedIn.  So we connected again, and had a good laugh about our “million” that never came to be.

I saw that we were working in the same industry and thought it would be great to get together sometime, but over the next couple of years, sometime never came.  But last summer, I sent him a note saying “Man the time keeps flying by! Instead of asking how your summer is going, it’s more like How has your 21st Century been?  Hope you are well.” That LinkedIn message was sent on August 13, 2018.

LeeRygiel_LI copy.jpg

I never did reach out to him to connect in person, but this morning, I was browsing my account, and for some reason, his name popped into my head so I looked at his profile, and remembered that I still had the song, so maybe now would be a good time to get in touch.

My curiosity became sadness when I searched him in Google, and was pointed to an Obituary…

Lee had passed away in the hospital after an illness, on August 13, 2018

We often use social media to “keep in touch” with our friends and families, but if we “friend” someone on Facebook, do we then have an obligation to do more than Like their posts?  Or do we collect 500 or 1000 friends to feel like we have a big circle?

I regret the times that I might have had the opportunity to reconnect, and it’s amazing how intertwined our lives could have been.  Lee was a devout Catholic, who was involved with Alpha Ministries, an evangelization project in the Catholic Church, and was a Eucharistic Minister at the very church that my daughter-in-law’s family went to for a number of years.  I even attended family baptisms there.

Lee worked in the Computer industry, which is where I have worked for the last 30 years, after getting my BA in Music.

He was a competitive shooter (firearms) and may well have belonged to the same gun club that my brother and his wife belong to.

So at my next singing engagement in September, I will be singing Lee’s song “Just for Bucks”, thinking of him and knowing of his faith in the Lord. And I will be consoled knowing that even though we didn’t connect this time around, we’ll see each other again…  And the lesson learned, don’t just collect friends and followers, be a friend and follow your connections in person whenever you can.


3 thoughts on “Facing Regret

  1. Most of my regrets are similar to this one. Life goes by so quickly! I get bogged down in the routine of the day. Thanks for sharing this story. God bless!

  2. Oh, Dan, this was heartbreaking. Thank you for sharing…I know it was difficult to write. How glibly we say things, and then don’t follow up; I’m just as guilty as anyone else.
    I’m sure y’all will have lots to sing about together someday, and it most definitely will be awesome – I hope to get a front-row seat!

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