Boxes of memories
My wife and I recently moved from Maine to Michigan. I hate the process of moving, especially when you must go through all your stuff in preparation for packing. To say that I hang on to too many things is an understatement. Mementos from past experiences, videos and books from several decades, as well as papers and documents from over the years, have accumulated, filling up boxes and boxes of things that should have been thrown out years ago. Paul Monat, my great friend and executive assistant for many years (who passed away on April 1, 2022— may he rest in peace) always kept my office in tip-top shape and converted my important documents to electronic file format. Despite that, I still had to keep hard copies of my writings, such as "A Venal Conspiracy to DestroyParkview,” which is a historical sketch of the decades-long effort by detractors of Parkview Hospital in Brunswick, ME, to close the hospital. Then there is all the stuff traced back to a chance airplane meeting in 2006. On that occasion, I met another Paul, who would soon become my friend. Paul Kuntzler, from Washington, D.C., had worked for a firm that did support work for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Paul and I became friends, and as a result, I became fascinated with the many complex facets of the assassination I learned about. They never made it into the mainstream of public knowledge. I had accumulated boxes of documents, books and DVDs on Kennedy’s assassination. Now, I must spend hours going through this stuff and decide what to ditch and what to keep. Decisions, decisions! Given the way I have kept things,I should have been an anthropologist. I am not the only one in this world who hangs onto too much stuff. There are many who keep things they should have tossed. I was reminded of this as I pulled a document from a file I had marked "Recruiter's Disparaging Remarks."
When I started my assignment as CEO at Parkview Hospital in Maine, my assistant, Paul Monat, brought a document to me from the many files left by a predecessor who kept copious notes. The document contained my predecessor's notes from a conversation in October 2002, with a healthcare recruiter who I had never met, but evidently had been involved in giving feedback on potential candidates for the CEO position at Parkview Hospital, which I was interviewing for at that time. The document was titled: "Candidate Analysis - Ted Lewis.” After the quotation that said: "short and fat," there were other individual line items of attributes that apparently were meant to depict me. Now, as I review this document again and reflect on the fact that I ended up being the longest-tenured CEO (10 years) in Parkview's history, I had to laugh out loud at the list of terms used to describe me, none of which were positive. Most humorous to me was that I was described as a "wimp,” “nerdy,” “not smart,” “sells apples” and a "geek/queer.” Sometimes documents that get left by mistake can be embarrassing. Seeing this document again, which was never intended for my eyes, made me chuckle. I remember that when I met the recruiter, her face turned red after she learned of the predecessor’s failure to purge the files filled with this attempt at slander. As I tied up several large bags of my "stuff" to take to the trash, a small plastic replica of Detroit Red Wing #91, Steve Yzerman fell out of one of the bags. I purchased this piece of memorabilia at the MCI Center in the District of Columbia on June 16, 1998 during Detroit's four-game sweep of the Washington Capital to win the Stanley Cup. I sat down and started to daydream about that
wonderful evening. My nephew Michael and I had blue line lower-level seats and were firsthand observers of SteveYzerman, Captain of the Red Wings, and winner of the Conn Smythe trophy for "Most Valuable Player" in the series, circling the ice with the Stanley Cup hoisted above his head at the end of the game.
Instead of putting this relic back in the trash bag, I carefully placed my prized souvenir in one of the boxes marked "Important - Save" which contained my copies of the Pacific Island Times. I have kept each copy of this wonderful publication since my column started in 2018. Yes, I read the online edition. However, there is a special feeling I get when I receive the newsprint edition that I can flip through, touch and smell.
After thinking about all this stuff though,I came to realize that none of it means anything at the end of the day. As life on this earth for each one of us works toward its inevitable conclusion, and time becomes shorter than we all think, what matters most are not the "things" we have collected over the years, but rather the friendships we have developed.
What we will miss most from Maine are not any of the boxes of "stuff" accumulated there. No, we will miss our relatives Laura (and her partner Tom), Madison, and others, along with friends Donna and Glenn, Brad, Brendan, Cheryl, Dan and Sheryl, Bill, Janet, Sandy, May and Julius, Diana, Jeff, Steve, Jud, and others. Maybe most of all, we will miss our true friend and confidant from IHOP, Mary Turner. For the past couple of years, Sharon and I were privileged to be served by Mary each week when we visited the South Portland IHOP for breakfast or lunch. Before, and then through the pandemic, the three of us have become best of friends.
During this purge of "stuff,” there were dozens of bags of trash thrown out! However, our friendships from Maine will never be discarded.
Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.