What’s Really Important

Last weekend we shared a nice afternoon with my sister and the folks enjoying their new bocce ball court and a bottle or two of Octoberfest appropriate beer. As is usually the case it was great to catch up on everything from the kids to current jobs (for those of us still working) to vacation plans. As we were sitting down for dinner we heard on the news of a fire rapidly blazing its way through hundreds of acres down Monterey way. Since we now reside in that area we were concerned, even more so when we learned the flames were a mere ten miles from our home. We continued monitoring the news worrying through the evening and headed out early the next day.

As we neared the turnoff to our home we had to skirt the lines of a second fire that lined both sides of the road and was supposedly 80 percent contained. Firemen and trucks were scattered everywhere with blackened hills filling the landscape that 24 hours earlier had been brown. Fortunately these hard working public servants fought the good fight and were on top of the situation allowing us to make it safely home. Once there we tuned into the local news for the latest on what was being called the Tassajara fire. We were a bit frustrated to find no updates to the situation since many hours ago. Although we could not see smoke we could smell it.

Beatrice and I decided we would put together a few boxes of our most important records and possessions in case we might have to make a run for it should the fire spread to our doorstep. We found a few plastic containers left over from our recent move and began wandering the house in search of those most important and irreplaceable possessions.

What were we going to include in these precious few boxes? With a limit to what we could pack into the cars, which items did we consider to be most irreplaceable, sentimental and significant? Looking back now it was an interesting exercise. At the time, not so much.

We agreed there were certain documents we needed to save – deed to the house, pink slips, receipts from the sale of the house, birth certificates, tax records for the past years, and insurance information.

Next we focused on a few valuable pieces of art we have and figured we could get them into the car relatively easily – just a few paintings and one Peter Lik photo that we bought on our honeymoon.

Even with these minimal selections we were running out of available space. What else was most important to save? When it came down to it the material side of things was surprisingly unimportant. Neither of us was concerned over electronics or furniture that although good quality could be replaced. The real loss for us would be the beautiful spot where we were planning to spend the rest of our lives. This perfect location would not be so perfect should we have to rebuild amidst blackened ruins. For me it came down to a short list: photos of the family collected over the years – there are no negatives and these could not be replaced; my laptop; and one particularly unique vase with a chameleon climbing the side that although not valuable is pretty cool.

In the end we collected everything in three plastic bins and were ready to grab the three pictures off the walls to make our dash to safety. Thankfully the fire was contained and our immediate neighborhood is no worse for the wear.

Since the threat of the fire we have scanned all of our important documents onto a hard drive and thumb drive. We have opened a safety deposit box where we store these along with some irreplaceable pictures and family heirlooms. We now keep an empty plastic container next to the safe to throw the contents into short order should the need arise. Most importantly we appreciate even more what we have and how fortunate we are to be where we are. We witnessed in those poor people who lost their homes just how fragile and uncertain the future can be. Taking life for granted is a mistake. You are only as safe as your next disaster. We feel prepared to make a hasty retreat should we have to. But in the meantime we are enjoying the moment and making the best of each day together.

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About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement – Only the Beginning. He has authored three books: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". Dave was also a contributing writer for the books 65 Things to do when you Retire (“Positive Aging – Old is the New Young”) as well as 65 Things to do when you Retire – TRAVEL (“Travel to Discover your Family Heritage”). He lives in sunny California with his wife, his Boston Terrier "Frank" and a passion for the San Jose Sharks.

4 thoughts on “What’s Really Important

  1. What a great reminder of the realities of life in the West. I was just thinking about what I would put in those few boxes myself, since we recently moved into a rural area of southern Colorado. Luckily we live on a county road and not at all in the trees, but you never know!

  2. I’m very glad to hear that you didn’t end up needed to evacuate but being prompted to create a plan could prove to be invaluable. We aren’t in danger of a wildfire where we live but, of course, fires can occur anywhere. In addition they keep reminding us of the inevitable “BIG ONE” earthquake here in Southern California. Thanks for the reminder!!!

    • We had our earthquake preparedness kit for years while living in the Bay Area. Left that behind to be replaced by fires – Mother Nature will have her way! Best to be prepared in some little way if we can.

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