One More Reason to Be Nice to Your Children

I’m reading a biography about Buckminster Fuller written by Lloyd Steven Sieden.

Fuller had a 4-year-old daughter Alexandra who caught the 1918 flu, later got meningitis, and finally was afflicted by polio. Though frail, she managed to survive all these illnesses until the age of 4. It was the fall, and Fuller headed off from New York to Boston by train to attend the Harvard-Yale football game. Fuller walked with his daughter and wife, using a cane both because canes were in fashion and he had suffered a knee injury playing football earlier in life.

As Sieden writes:

Before he got on the train, little Alexandra looked up and asked, “Daddy, will you bring me a cane?” Bucky [Fuller’s nickname] promised he would bring back the souvenir as he set off for an enjoyable day of football and friends.

Harvard won that day, and Bucky spent most of his time lost in drink, camaraderie, and parties, forgetting his troubles as well as his family on Long Island. When he arrived in Pennsylvania Station in New York the following afternoon, Bucky telephoned Anne [his wife] who could barely speak. She told him that Alexandra had suffered a relapse and was in a coma. Stunned, Bucky caught the next train to Long Island. Arriving home, he found Alexandra still unconscious and a doctor doing all he could to save her life.

Bucky could only sit near her bed looking on helplessly as the doctors and nurses continued their work well into the night. Eventually, the situation calmed down, but Alexandra’s condition did not improve. Then, in the early hours before dawn, she opened her eyes and smiled up at Bucky. As he bent close to his daughter, Bucky heard her tiny voice ask, “Daddy, did you bring me my cane?”

Fuller could only turn away in shame and agony. In the furor of drinking and celebrating, he had forgotten his daughter’s simple request. Following her question, Alexandra closed her eyes for the last time and died in her father’s arms a few hours later. Bucky never forgave himself for that incident, which, even in the last years of his life, would bring tears of remorse to his eyes.


Imad Qureshi

Very touching.

David Chowes, New York City

We all live our lives with many regrets -- it's part of the human condition. Yes -- quite touching!

kip

Are you sure these aren't just the lyrics to a country song?

bb

absolutely tragic. :(
thanks for sharing

Andres

That brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a crazy workday. Very touching.

smv

As a mother of a four-year-old, I'm speechless.

Mike Lerch

It's amazing how often we remember our parental failures so vividly while our triumphs fade away.

John Faughnan

Perfection is too high a goal ...

jdiec

As I understand, this was the event that motivated him to do everything he achieved for the rest of his life.

Not that I would wish it on anyone, but we should all be so (un)lucky to overcome such tragedy and have it shape us into individuals like him.

chris markl

I wonder how many requests we all miss like this one? Its interesting how easy it is to do the responsible or kind thing sometime, but how often we become distracted and miss out on a real opportunity to make meaning in the world. I am guilty of this a lot, and wonder why I am so short sighted in my actions or are so wasteful with my time.

Thanks for sharing this story, I'll carry it with me today.

Chance

He deserved to feel guilty. He was thoughtless.

Howard Tayler

Trite though it is when we see it on motivational posters, I find fundamental truth in the saying that nothing we accomplish in our lives will mean so much as whether or not we made a difference in the life of a child.

Douglas Warren

Sure, make me cry at work. Thanks a lot.

w

talk about a downer.

Shelley

I feel so sorry for him -- a life of torment for a moment of forgetfulness.

(Chance, #11, I'm glad I don't know you.)

J

I'm not sure what the moral of this story is supposed to be... never, ever screw up because an unrelated event might make you feel terrible about it?

That moment must have been horrible. But it does not define who Fuller was as a father.

Ben

Thankfully for the current generation of 4 year-olds, there are a lot of investment-banker daddies that don't have to stay late at work anymore.

PaulD

Wow. Some people really haven't learned how to process anecdotes. It isn't a template for all of life, it isn't a condemnation carved in stone -- it's just a poignant little story that should make you think a little.

econobiker

True sadness cannot be comprehended until one has been in this type of situation or a situation in which his/her actions or inactions have inadvertently hurt his/her own child.

But Fuller, while never forgetting the past, seemed to have been productive with his actions beyond that time versus plying the depths of addiction in attempts to dull the pain.

Never forget and always be ready to change for the better.

AaronS

In raising my own son, I often ask my father for advice, since he was such a good father. I specifically asked him if he had any regrets in how he had raised me. To my surprise he did! He then related to me something that had happened over 40 years before....

We had visited the Qualla Indian Reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. I had wanted a pair of "real" moccasins. But for whatever reason, dad had declined.

I didn't even remember the event. But, sadly, Dad never forgot it. And it made him feel like he had missed the opportunty to do a little something for his boy that he could have easily done.

I took that to heart. My son doesn't get everything he wants, but I keep my ears open for things he really wants. I don't want to have a Bucky moment in my future.

I may regret many things, but please, God, don't it let it be regarding how I treated my son...who is my very soul.

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