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.
Great piece. I’m taking my daughter to see the Red Sox and Phillies play an exhibition game on Saturday. While I’m excited to see Dice-K, I’m MORE excited for the drive and to see my daughter give a hug to the Philly Fanatic. She loves the mascots!
You’ve touched on a bittersweet wish of mine — to have each of my sons back for one hour (separately, please) as 3-year-olds, so I can hold them and rock them and play with them and talk to them and totally appreciate those moments that are now lost in time. Very nice post.