On Regret…

There’s a very good biography about Buckminster Fuller written by Lloyd Steven Sieden.

Fuller had a 4-year-old daughter Alexandra who suffered through the toughest of times. She caught the 1918 “Spanish” flu (which claimed several members of my ancestor’s family), then meningitis, and finally polio. She survive all these illnesses with courage, if not frailty, until the age of 4.

In the fall of her 4th year, Fuller headed off from New York to Boston by train to attend the Harvard-Yale football game. (This was when American rules football was still little more than an American version of rugby). 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.

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