After I finished reading Steve Gilliand’s book, Making A Difference, and I thought about those who have made a difference in my life. I began to question, if I had made a difference in someone’s life, even with a random act of kindness.
Recently, I was talking to my mother and she told me that a family member, Tommy Kavunedus, is in the hospital and she would like to visit him. So, I decided to fly to Ft. Myers, FL for a few days to visit with mom and drive her to Clearwater to visit with Tommy and his wife Carolyn.
Well, mom and I get in the car for our 2 1/2 hour drive to Clearwater. I am as guilty as the next person– constantly checking my iPhone for email, text messages, Facebook messages, sport scores or whatever. We have all heard that we are way too connected to our devices, and communication now exists in the clouds verses direct face-to-face conversation.
Since I am driving, I can’t check for emails and other messages, so mom and I talk the whole way to Clearwater. The topics are not important, we are just enjoying spending quality time together.
We get to the hospital and I give my email a quick check – nothing pressing. We walked into Tommy’s room and found him sitting in a chair next to his hospital bed. His hospital gown hung loosely off his body and he looked frail. As we looked at him we were unsure if he recognized us. Mom said, “Tommy, do you know who we are?” In a low, gravely, Marlon Brando Godfather voice, he said, “of course I do. Hello Polly and Petie. ”
After some initial small talk, he began to tell us a story about how his father and my grandfather immigrated from eastern Greece to Harlan, Kentucky around 1910. As I listened to him tell this wonderful story, his face began to show life. His eyes sparkled and at times he would laugh. Periodically, he would pause and say, “this is a wonderful opportunity I have to share this story with you” in his Godfather voice. Other times, he would tear up and say,”can you believe what these young immigrant boys went through.”
During his story, he kept referring to his dad, Charlie Kavendues, and Steve Margaritis. I was a little confused because my grandfather was named Pete Margaritis. I just felt that in his failing health that he was confused. However, the details he shared in telling this story showed that his mind was as sharp as a tack. At one point in the story, he mentions that Steve Margaritis died due to a ruptured appendix and Charlie went to Lexington, found his brother Pete and offered him Steve’s piece of the business. This is where I stopped him and asked him to repeat that part of the story. See, I never knew that my grandfather had a brother named Steve. I remember my dad – Michael – telling me stories about his father Pete but never mentioned anything about Steve Margaritis. WOW, I had a great uncle I never knew existed.
For three hours Tommy regaled us with a number of wonderful stories. I sat there listening intently and at times I would feel the vibration of my iPhone alerting me of a message or phone call. Out of high regard for this man, I didn’t pull my phone out and shut it down and I never looked at my iPhone for the full three hours. I was disconnected from the outside world and completely in the moment, void of any distractions.
I have to say that was one of the most impactful three hours I had spent in a very long time. What started as a son wanting to make an impact in his mothers life, turned into a very wise man having a wonderful impact on this 54 year old guy. Tommy Kavunedus made a huge difference in my life, reminding me the importance of our heritage, our past, and to take time to visit with the ones we love more often. Tommy, thanks for Making A Difference in my life.