She rolled her eyes and my heart broke a little.
The “she” was my daughter’s good friend. Her father had just very enthusiastically told her his plans for the two of them for the rest of the day.
“I’m going to show you around some of the places that were special to me,” he said, with a big grin on his face. “I figured it would be fun for you to spend some time with your old dad.”
I could not help smiling at his excitement. But then I looked at his soon-to-be 15 year old daughter and my smile faded when I saw that eye roll.
We had spent the day together, driving our kids down to Boston to attend an information session offered by the college that she and my kids all want to attend. My husband and I drove down with our son, while Julia and her friend rode with her dad.
I had listened to him try to share memories with her as we had lunch and saw some of the sights of the town where he used to live.
Her reaction was barely concealed indifference. She was neither hearing him or seeing him. Not really. Yes, she heard his words and her eyes watched him as he talked but that was as far as it went.
“PAY ATTENTION!” I wanted to shout at her—not in anger but in sadness and heartache. “You only have one father! Listen to him! THIS TIME IS A GIFT!!!”
Of course, I said none of those things. We said our goodbyes and I watched them walk to their truck together.
The sight made me want to cry.
I was the same way as a teenager.
I mostly endured the time with my parents and lived for the times when I could be with my friends.
I listened with half an ear when they told me about their younger lives, but it was nearly impossible for me to imagine that they were anything other than my parents.
Every so often during my teenage years, I would have a recurring dream that my dad had died. I would wake up crying, then I would feel so relieved when I would hear him puttering around in the morning getting ready for work. He was still here!
I was so happy that I would greet him with uncharacteristic enthusiasm that morning and resolve to be nicer to him than my sometimes self-absorbed, bratty teenage self usually was. That only lasted a couple of days, of course.
What I would give to be able to listen to his stories today.
I am so grateful that I had a second chance, so to speak, during the last week of my dad’s life. I think he instinctively knew his time was short and he wanted to talk. He shared memory after memory with me: his childhood in Donora, PA, his time spent in the Air Force during the Korean war, what it was like when my brother and I were younger, and most sweetly his thoughts on my mom, his bride of nearly 40 years at that point.
“I still can’t believe that someone so beautiful would be interested in someone like me.”
I treasure those last moments with my dad and always will.
The point is, we have to stop taking the people in our lives for granted.
I try to teach that to my kids as often as I can.
Today, make it a priority to see your loved ones. Listen to their stories. Treasure them. Give them your full attention for at least a few minutes of every day.
I will do the same.
Yes, it takes time to be this intentional. However, it is worth every effort.
And if you are so blessed as to have a parent or parents who are still living, pick up the phone and give them a call. Better yet, if you live close enough, stop by and see if they will tell you a story or two.