Today marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of my beloved mother. She was a mere four years older than I am today and I miss her dearly. My younger sister sent all of the family members this video tribute and it lovingly captured the lifetime memories of Constance Briegs Burns...my mother.
My dad, passed away in my arms five years ago and my sister made this lasting tribute of our dad for his Memorial. He was my real life hero.
When someone like me sees evidence of "lives well lived" such as in the videos of my parents here, one can't help but compare your own life and experiences...the joy and sadness and of course reflect on the missed opportunities...
From the beginning, I've lived my life as a hard charging, risk taking entrepreneur. I've made and lost fortunes, somehow always being able to pick up the pieces and find ultimate redemption in never giving up and doing what it took to "win."
"Winning" came with a price...a dear one in fact. Along life's path, I met a beautiful young girl, courted and married her. We lived an idyllic life on Nantucket and Sanibel Island, she blessed me with our two cherished daughters and...my narcissistic obsession with fame and fortune, acquisition and conquering destroyed my marriage and I lost my precious family... over twenty years ago now.
Of course, my overblown ego wouldn't let me just roll over and die so I, once again, picked up the shattered pieces, followed my family out West and began the ascent to so-called "success," once again. It wasn't so easy and I had many stops and starts along these next chapters of my life. My dear mother had died the same time as my divorce and I was estranged from my siblings for a lot of reasons...all my fault. I tried really hard to stay connected to my little girls, who were growing up so fast but looking back, I failed miserably. Again, my obsession with recapturing what I once had (or thought I had) was all I really cared about.
My beautiful daughters, patiently nurtured and loved by my former wife, blossomed into fabulous young women. I popped in and out of their lives but was more of a "visiting uncle" than a true father. Still, I didn't realize the terrible toll I had paid until I had the undeserved honor of walking each daughter down the aisle within three months of each other...a scant three years ago. Both daughters married well...and each fine young man they picked was very different than me. One, is an Assistant Prosecutor for a State Attorney and the other is the Director of Prosthetics for a major city hospital and each young man is making a safe and stable life for my daughters. What is more...each daughter has given birth - giving me many grandchildren...two sets of twins and two more (as of Thanksgiving) for a total of six grandbabies all under the age of three.
I now live within reach, geographically at least, of each daughter and their growing families. Yet, for the past year or more, I have been unwelcome in their lives. The ups and downs and erratic lifestyle of this serial entrepreneur was simply something neither daughter wanted to disrupt their own new lives with their husbands and children. I do not blame them - yet am determined to reconcile and try to model a semblance of the relationship my dear departed parents offered their children and grandchildren.
Recently I learned from my partner in our latest venture, that a seasoned investor had invested with us, valuing our little start-up of 15 months at millions of dollars. We have forecast that the ultimate worth of our unique niche in the luxury travel world, especially after a sweeping new contract we just signed...makes this new grandfather a wealthy man. Since, at age 60, this is likely my "last hurrah," I have big plans for this windfall.
About 16 years hence, my six grandchildren will all be of age to enter college. The staggering estimated cost of this will be literally millions of dollars. I formed a Trust for covering that burden for my daughters and their husbands by acquiring an annuity and life insurance policy whose yield will carry the cost of my grandchildren to be educated in the finest educational institutions of their choice. Their college attendance start-up date corresponds almost exactly with my life expectancy according to my insurer's actuarial tables. This is a worthy endeavor and one in which I will dedicate my business efforts the rest of my life.
Reconciliation with my family remains my greatest wish and my biggest personal challenge. Yet, I believe in Second Chances and I certainly know at this stage, that life is much, much more than business success. The video tributes to my dear parents reflect "lives well lived" and it is to that goal that I dedicate the rest of my time on Earth to.
I will always be an entrepreneur...that is just who I am but at long last, I will place both my fatherhood and grandfatherhood front and center of the last chapters of my life.