While my column usually focuses on the balance of work and home life, occasionally something will happen that makes me take a giant step back and examine my life as a whole and learn a lesson or two.
My now five year old met Luke at family day care before they were each one year old. I confess, I did not get to know Luke’s parents until my son was ready for drop-off play dates, and he began to ask if Luke could come over. Luke’s parents and I began speaking to arrange play dates—and last spring and summer we got into a sort of routine. Luke’s mom worked in a nearby school system, so she was not available during the school year. Luke’s dad, though, was a golf pro at a local country club, so he was more available during the winter and spring. Luke’s dad would call me on a beautiful morning and say, “Ellen, could you take Luke for the day? I have some private lessons that I can schedule.” I, of course, was only too glad to have Luke over. Those of you with kids know about kid math—if you have one child and you add another child, you end up with no children because the two kids go off and entertain themselves, without the need for you to be around. In turn, Luke’s dad would take my son for me, sometimes to the golf course, leaving me free to work for a few hours in the afternoon while my youngest child napped.
Over the summer, while Luke’s dad was busy on the golf course, Luke’s mom took my son to the beach (again, under the theory of kid math) or to other places. The kids had a great time, and I’d chat with Luke’s parents about purchasing their first house and, once completed, their move to it. While we were on a cruise last August, we played some golf, and my husband and I talked about how we should get Luke’s dad to give our son some lessons.
When we returned home, I called Luke’s house to arrange a playdate because the boys had not seen each other for a while. It was then I learned that, while we were away, Luke’s dad had been diagnosed with stage four cancer of the esophagus.
Luke’s dad fought the cancer; he started chemo immediately, and he made the best of his new, forced time off. He played in a PGA golf tournament (and won) in Georgia. Luke’s whole family traveled to the Cayman Islands for Christmas last year, and Luke and his dad went to opening day at Fenway Park. By April, he had grown considerably weaker and thinner. Nonetheless, he made it to nearly all of Luke’s T-ball games, even though the downhill walk from the parking area to the field took him a long time. Throughout the entire ordeal, Luke’s dad always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude.
This past Monday, I attended Luke’s dad funeral. My heart breaks for Luke and his mom. Luke will start kindergarten in the fall; his mom, a young woman. I wish I had gotten to know Luke’s dad better; that we had been given more time to develop our friendship. Luke’s dad has taught me some very valuable lessons, that I plan to carry with me and that I share with you. First, if something is really important to you, find a way to do it. Don’t wait for the perfect time or until you have enough money—don’t be frivolous or reckless or use it as an excuse to hit the spending limit on your credit cards—but do it, because really, the perfect time rarely arrives. Second, I am sure I am not the only one who can tell such a story. I know that most of us know families like Luke’s or maybe we are Luke’s family. So when the minutiae of life has got you down—take a deep breath and try to look at the bigger picture and try to realize that things really aren’t that bad.