One of the main reasons I am more passionate about parenthood and family life than most parents is that I experience family moments through the eyes of myself as an old man, or as though I’m watching current moments unfold forty years from now on a movie screen. Imagine how exciting it would be for a parent of grown adults to go back in time and re-experience some of his best days with his wife and young children. Imagine how precious every moment would be. That’s how I approach each day now, with my family.
When one of my children runs to me as I walk in the door from work, calls out “Daddy!” and hugs my legs, I record the details of that moment in my memory because I know it will be long gone in the snap of my fingers. When I’m driving and one of my children asks me a random question like, “Why did God give humans toenails?” it clicks in my head that this is a moment I’ll long for when my kids are grown up with their own kids, and I savor the ensuing conversation. When I’m reading bedtime stories to my children and part of me wants to be watching the beginning of the baseball game on TV, I simply remind myself that, when I’m 80, I’ll wish I could come back to this intimate, personal moment with my child, reading and discussing books at the day’s end. And then I experience the moment as though I’m reliving it, 40 years from now, reunited with my five year-old son before he became an adult.
Certainly, my heart surgery in 2001 intensified my awareness of the passing of time and the remarkable gifts embedded in each moment I spend with my family. But I have always possessed an acute appreciation of the present. I recall, at age 18 and 19, singing with my band and being aware of the fleeting nature of the joy I was experiencing on that stage. I recall, as a baseball player in my 20s, standing on the mound, gazing up at the lights towering above the field moments before throwing the first pitch of every game. I would memorize that view and that feeling of excited anticipation and express gratitude for the opportunity to compete and to excel.
I don’t know where or when I learned to see my life as though I had been dropped back into the present from the future. But I do know that this perspective is a spectacular gift that enables me to suck the marrow out of life while I’m here.