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Warmest regards: Knowing what to throw away

Americans throw away an astounding amount of food. A detailed government survey concludes 40 percent of the U.S. food supply is wasted each year, with each of us throwing away approximately 219 pounds of food.

I don’t know exactly how researchers measured how much food we each waste. But I do believe their statistics that say much of that food waste is done by younger people. Older people, especially those who lived through the war years, tend to follow the old maxim “waste not, want not.”

Both my husband and I come from family backgrounds where it was drilled into us not to waste anything.

Not food. Not water. Not electricity. Certainly not money. We grew up learning nothing should be wasted, and we learned our lesson well.

While my husband and I both like leftovers, and while I am careful about using all the food in my refrigerator, I often have to throw away produce two days after I bring it home because it starts to rot. I’m still working on solving that.

But this column isn’t just about not wasting food.

I want to talk about not wasting something even more precious than food and natural resources - life itself. There are so many ways we can waste the days we are given, making our life so much less than it could be.

Maybe the best way I can explain that is to tell you about a father and daughter I’ll call Alex and Alice. While I’m not using their real names to protect their privacy, every detail I’m about to tell you is sadly true.

Unlike some kids who distance themselves from their parents, Alice always revered her father. She greatly respected his opinions and grew up wanting to please him.

For his part, Alex described his daughter as “always a good kid.”

Yet, this close father and daughter ended up not talking for an entire decade. Ten years!

I don’t know the intimate little details about what caused their long separation. It all seems incomprehensible to me. All I know is that Alex said something ugly that wounded his daughter in a significant way. She didn’t tell me what he said, only that her father couldn’t have hurt her more if he had put a knife in her gut.

There were angry words exchanged and Alice left her father’s house vowing not to return again until he apologized.

His family says Alex never apologizes for anything. He can never admit he is wrong. That was certainly true in this case, too.

Alex insisted his daughter was the one who owed him an apology. “I’m the parent here. What ever happened to respect for parents? She needs to come back and apologize for the things she said to me,” he said.

Her birthday came and went but her father refused to reach out to her. I thought maybe if he at least mailed her a nice card it would open up communication between them.

He never did it.

Then it was Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year. Both nursed their wounds, holding on to their mutual resentment as if it were something precious to hold close.

I know it must have been an empty time for both of them, but they never admitted it.

The more time that passed, the harder it became to reconcile. The passing time magnified the hurt both were carrying.

Finally, for Father’s Day, Alice sent her dad a beautiful card and a note saying she missed him and the good times they shared.

He was still miffed that he didn’t get apology he felt he had coming and didn’t respond in any way to her card.

“If she wants to see me she can come here,” he said.

It’s hard to believe that the standoff continued for so long. Ten long years went by with both of them holding on to their hurt. I don’t believe they even remembered exactly why they were out of each other’s life.

A few months ago, Alex experienced the horror of coming down with COVID-19.

When Alice heard her father was alone, battling to cope with COVID-19, she called him.

“I just want you to know I will take care of you. I will always be there for you,” she told him.

They never talked about “the incident.” No one apologized. The daughter just pledged her love and support. And Alex kept saying how happy she made him.

“I always heard when something bad happens there can be a silver lining. Having my daughter back in my life is the best kind of silver lining,” the dad told me.

What bothers him most is that he wasted 10 years of his life holding onto false pride and carrying unnecessary emotional pain.

“We’ll never be able to get those 10 years back,” he lamented.

What he and his daughter both learned is that some things need to be thrown away, not kept close. Things like resentment, anger and hard feelings need to be discarded before they can pollute our lives.

Those negative emotions are the garbage of life. When they pop into your life, treat them like unwanted garbage and get rid of them fast.

As Alex and his daughter learned, we waste every day we allow that garbage to overtake us.

Contact Pattie Mihalik at newsgirl@comcast.net.