What a title!  If there weren’t so many words, I would call it an oxymoron.  One would think for most of us, that planning for tomorrow would preclude any possibility for a life of “value” today.  Most everyone would agree that they were either born with a silver spoon in their mouth or they were born on the wrong side of the tracks.  I also believe that most everyone would agree that there are different levels of each of these two situations.  At the same time, I would bet that some that were born with that proverbial “spoon”, didn’t know it as a youth, and wouldn’t have admitted it if they did.

I never knew how tough times were for my parents when I was young.  My dad had returned from WWII a year before I was born, a decorated war veteran full of piss and vinegar and ready to take on the world.  And he did just that, and with a vengeance.  However, I have memories of meals with meat in the goulash only if dad had made a good sale that day.  Even so, never did I feel we were poor, but I sure as heck never felt we were wealthy in those early days.  Looking back though, there is no doubt that we were very poor, certainly so in those early years.

Being poor in Cimarron was not an uncommon thing in the Fifties.  I knew there were groups that I was not welcome to associate with, but for the most part, there were much fewer that were well off than those of us that weren’t.  As such, I had lots of friends in the same boat.  My folks worked multiple jobs, dad at the salvage yard he owned with Grandpa Thomas, and he owned the Standard service station.  Later he sold the Standard Station and bought the Mobil Oil service station.  During much of that time he was the Gray county sheriff and mom worked full time at the Cimarron Insurance Co.  My brother, sister and I didn’t have a clue that we would be considered “Latch Key Kids” years later.  You never knew that term back in those days.  Perhaps never needing a key to get into the house was the reason.  Of course, that all changed in the late Fifties when the Clutter family was murdered in Holcomb. 

Getting back to my message, my folks were too busy to plan for the future, they were busy just surviving.  But think about that for a moment.  I was the same way when I first got married and started raising a family.  I did not consider myself dirt poor, but I didn’t have the time or the money to plan for my future.  I was too busy planning for my children’s future.  Looking back however, that is a very good example of a great way to plan for your own future; by making sure your kids are self-sufficient when they go out on their own.  I also know that is not possible for all of everyone’s children, but even then, the plan runs on the same track.  You just have to put your children first…. Period; no if, ands or buts.

Thanks to my great choice in my wife, my children were all A or AB students.  As such, my plan was simple for my kids; try as hard as I could to have them graduate from college debt free.  At the same time, teach them the difference between right and wrong, to live conservatively and to be good Christians.  I figured that would be all I could ever give them in life.  I am always amazed at the amount of money “bad” children have cost people by pure neglect in their “developmental” years.  I know that I will help my children if they ever need it, but I will know that Jane and I have done everything possible to keep that from being necessary.

My wife and I struggled to give our children a chance for a college diploma.  Although I have never considered myself a hard worker, I did have a dad that demanded that I was as close to a hard worker as he could make me.  I worked at the John Deere days, and on the farm nights.  We found that if my wife took in sewing, baby sat other children and made some of our own clothing, that she could make more money than driving to Dodge City to pursue her career as an RN.  She was an RN in Wichita when I met her but she could not make enough in those days as a nurse to justify paying for gas and babysitters.  We never went into debt except to buy our homes and to buy businesses.  I didn’t know it at the time, but we were planning for our future all of that time.  But were we living for today at the same time? 

Looking back once again, I think we were.  There were really no big things that we missed out on that really meant that much.  My wife was able to raise our four children staying at home and did a great job in the process.  They are all on their own now and are doing well.  But were we really planning for tomorrow?  I can tell you right now, that when the last one graduated from college, the increase we felt to our spendable income was tremendous.  That is when we discovered that those few things that really hadn’t meant much at the time, were starting to mean a bit more to us.

I feel that when the last of the kids graduated from college that we could see planning ahead would have direct results for us from then on.  Even though the kids were gone and we had more usable cash, it was still hard.  Farming was up and down, with too many of those times being down.  But we kept after it, and as luck would have it, we were able to get to a position with a chance for retiring gracefully.  Until recently, I had always believed they would carry me out “feet first” from my office at the John Deere dealership.

But try as one may, one cannot live life free of regrets.  Old friendships were the hardest for me to keep alive, and that remains my biggest regret.  My dad was the guy that once he knew you, he knew you forever.  He would never turn his back to any friend for any reason.  He was a Man’s Man and a Friend’s Friend.  I found it difficult to keep my nose to the grindstone and still be the friend I knew I should be.  For that I am sad but I am working through it as well as I can.  Family has always been important to me, and I found that at times, I had to choose between family and old friends.  I am not proud that I could not do both as my dad did, but I can live with it.

What I am trying to get at is; live today, do everything you can to enjoy the present, but keep your dreams of tomorrow in site.  For me, just as it was for my parents, surviving was a big part of that quest.  Giving my children a better shot at a good future was also a large part of my plan for tomorrow.  If you just plan for tomorrow you will miss out on many good times and many good memories.  If you don’t plan enough however, you run the risk of not enjoying life in your later years. 

How are you going to plan for tomorrow and still live today?  I have talked about what my folks did and what I and my wife did.  They were similar but also quite different.  What you do will be your choice.  What results you have will be a direct result of your goal and the effort you make to achieve that goal.  Be bold; live today as if it could be your last.  But do not lose track of that carrot dangling at the end of the pole.  Be a good person for yourself, your family and your friends.  If you reach your goal and you do have regrets, fix the damned things.  That is my quest for my-self and my hope for all of my family and friends.

And finally, if you are a Christian, remember that the “ultimate carrot” is our Lord Jesus Christ.  Live life to its fullest, but never forget that our time on earth is just a “blink” in eternity.  To really live today and plan for tomorrow, do what you must do to assure your seat in Heaven with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Pete Thomas.

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My dear friend, Pete - all i can say is AMEN - AMEN - AND AMEN!!!!!!!! YOU took the words right out of my mouth - i am always telling people that being given the gift of my daughter, Maressa, has taught me to live for today - and yet, i do keep the future in mind - but at a distance. FANTASTIC words of wisdom - Jane Wehkamp Arthurs

Thanks Janie, hope I can keep it up and hope to see you and meet your family perhaps next homecoming.  Pete.

Very well said Pete. I am truly enjoying your writings and the fact that you are sharing your thoughts and experiences with so many. Thank you for the words of wisdom. Looking forward to Jeff Borlands writing next week as well as your future muses.
As always your old friend and neighbor,
Becki Taylor
Thanks Becki, I really enjoy doing these. I keep finding new ones that I had started years ago. I wonder what I would have said differently if I had finished them. Probably would have done some editing and go with them. Jeff's is pretty special.  He and the Marshal have similar thoughts but put them on paper differently.   Thanks again, Pete.
You’re being too hard on yourself. It’s easy to look at the past and people like our parents through rose colored glasses. From where I sit in the cheap seats, you’ve done alright in the morals department. It is the mark of a moral man to think he could do better. Jeffro Borland.
Yes, you are probably right to some extent but then I wonder why I don't have more regrets if I am so moral. But I really don't have many regrets. And as far as those rose colored glasses, I know what you may mean. I have always felt that the first days and more after anyone's death, is their time for a little taste of Sainthood from friends, family and even sometimes from enemies. Perhaps another muse for me to start working on. I am getting anxious for next week and your article.  Pete.
Dad -- thank you for all that you and mom have given us. The most important things you have given cannot be bought with money and cannot be taken away no matter what tomorrow might bring. I am grateful for all of them and for the hard work, selflessness and love that have made them possible. ~K

Damn, now I have to find the tissues.  Thanks hon, and be sure you tell your mom sometime.  She is the one really responsible.  Dad.