As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to have a greater appreciation for what truly matters. Today, I recognize time as the most important and the most valuable commodity in the entire universe.
Despite the invaluable and finite nature of time, time is the thing most of us waste. Time is the element we all tend to take for granted. And when time begins to run out, time is the object we all remember having wasted and taking for granted. In the end, time becomes something we would die to have more of however, when time passes, time does not come back, time is gone for good.
OLDER AND WISER
Last week, armed with my deeper appreciation of time and the perspective of a man soon to have lived for half a century, I took time off from everything and just about everyone. No financial planning, no writing, no work whatsoever.
During my self-imposed sabbatical, there was only one thing I intended to do and there was only one person with whom I intended to communicate. My intent was to spend time reconnecting with my son. My intent was to give Naeem my full undivided attention.
CALIFORNIA KNOWS HOW TO PARTY
Naeem was on spring break and we made plans to spend time together in Los Angeles. For the past seventeen spring breaks, I had spent my time preparing tax returns for clients. Seventeen years consecutively from January 1st through April 15th, my time was devoted to doing something that while providing a nominal compensation added no real value to my life. Each year as the calendar turned towards tax time, my stomach turned with pangs of guilt and remorse.
I know what it means to live with regret but now I’m working on having fewer. I made a vow that this year would be different. This year, I would no longer take time for granted nor would I spend precious time doing things that I would be displeased about having done if I was to learn that my time on this earth had been exhausted.
I’ve seen it happen and I’ve heard it conveyed too many times, parents now with grown children who wish they had spent more time with their children when their children were growing up, parents at the end of life wishing they had done things differently…parents who in general simply wish they had more time for and with their children.
NO CATS IN THE CRADLE HERE
Imagine the joy I felt packing my bag, knowing that my son, a college freshman, still wanted to spend time with his father. Unlike Harry Chapin’s hit song from 1973, Cats in the Cradle, Naeem didn’t ask to “borrow the car keys” nor did he say “see you later”. Given my seventeen year history of a divided focus and reckless appreciation of time, it would have been not only understandable but justifiable if he chose to live out the lyrics of the song and do something other than spend his time with his dad.
For six days, my son indulged his old man. We had a great time together which is almost always the case. I only use the words “almost always” because “always” is an absolute and I’m sure there has been a time where we didn’t have a great time. I can’t remember a time currently. Nonetheless, our time together was a reminder of just how I feel about my son.
I LOVE MY SON
For anyone who knows me, I know reading that I love my son will come as no surprise. Yet when I look at the word “love” or say the word in reference to the feelings I have for my son it seems insufficient.
How can a four letter word come close to describing how I feel about my son? In my mind, the word stating how I feel about my son should be much longer; maybe ten to fifteen letters. The word should immediately bring to mind awe and amazement. The word should leap off the page to personify as best as humanly possible the way I feel about him.
Mr. Peabody – the Harvard Valedogtorian, Nobel Prize-winning scientist, world-renowned explorer, and Olympic gold medalist in the long jump and the decathlon – chooses instead of saying “I love you” to say “I have a deep regard for you“. Mr. Peabody’s phraseology is not the most eloquent way to profess one’s affection but it does sound more profound than the word “love“.
Speaking of profound, there is no profound reason for me to love my son. He isn’t rich or famous. He hasn’t paid off my mortgage nor gifted me a Tesla. He hasn’t founded a billion dollar tech company where I get to be employed full-time but only have to show up for work when and if I feel like it. When we travel we don’t “go Dutch”; I happily incur all the expenses. Yet, despite what might appear to some as his obvious shortcomings, I simply love him to no end.
In hindsight, from the moment, he took his first breath outside the womb, I knew immediately that I was destined to love him always and forever. Nineteen years have now passed since we first officially met and I love him today with the same wide eye excitement that I did on his original birthday. In fact, each day I have loved him as if he were that newborn baby who was taking his first breath.
The time I spent with him was a reminder of how and why I love him so much. Our time together was confirmation that it was beyond time that I did something more life affirming during spring break. The respite helped clarify just how much time I had wasted.
My appreciation for just how much time I had truly wasted and how much I loved him didn’t hit me fully until it was time to depart. Romeo and Juliet might have believed parting to be such sweet sorrow but my experience is that parting is sorrow and nothing more.
I realize the days have passed where my son and I will share the same home. I’ve learned to be okay when we are apart. However, the initial moments, hours and sometimes days of the separation are brutal. A friend of mine calls this feeling, separation funk. Separation Funk figuratively feels like someone or something has taken my newborn baby away from me. Separation Funks feels as if someone or something has ripped my son and I apart before I could show him and reassure him just how much he is loved.
TIME IS EVERYTHING
I’ll continue to make time for my son because time with him is what matters most. I’ll keep on making time for my son selfishly because I want him to make time for me as the sands in my hour glass start to run out. Most importantly, I’ll always make time for my son because I never want him to have to know the pain and agony of having to search his heart and memory – as I so often find myself doing – for a time where he remembers his father’s love.
Are you making time for your children? Will you regret the use of your time when you run out of time?