I Hated Every Minute Of It

My uncle took over a family business that had been started by his grandfather (my great-grandfather) when he was a young man. I never did hear all of the details but the family gossip indicated that there were some underhanded things that went on in the family that resulted in my uncle's inheriting the business.

Years later, toward the end of his life, I visited my uncle at the family business. I had not seen him for many years since I had been living on the other side of the country and hadn't had much contact with my family in the intervening years. He was very pleasant and took me around the business (a boatyard). I will never forget a comment he made as we were walking on one of the docks that had been part of his working life for something like 40 years. He leaned over and said something to the effect that "I walked this dock, ran this business pretty much every day for the last 40 years -- and I hated every minute of it!"

Of course, it also must be said that he had been able to raise a family and live in a very nice part of town as a result of taking over and operating the family business. It is tempting, as I have learned the hard way, to only listen to the side of the story that goes along with our leanings. But there certainly are two sides to every story.

He didn't elaborate -- I think he was a little surprised and perhaps embarrassed at his sudden forthrightness. But I am pretty sure he wondered, as I did, what his life might have been like had he paid more attention to his own preferences. His children, my cousins, certainly could have benefited from some more positive energy in the house while they were growing up -- assuming, of course, that a reasonable standard of living could have been maintained as well. They did live well as a result of the family business, but they paid a price for that.

We do pay, of course, for every choice we make, as the old saying has it. The trick is to be as sure as we can that the price we're paying is a reasonable one.