Certain events in our lives give rise to reflection. As I get older nearly everything gives rise to reflection. But I think all of us have experienced how the birthday of a child seems to stimulate at least a small trip down memory lane. Children’s birthdays have always been my historical marker, how I recall when we took a special vacation or got a new car. “Matt was in the first grade when I got the red vet truck” or “Julie was in the third grade when we went to Disneyland.” Well last month I received a major life reminder. My son Matthew turned forty!
As I drove to Matt’s home outside Canon City, my mind was reflecting away. Matt was born in 1976, a bi-centennial baby, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I was attending veterinary school at Oklahoma State University. It was a busy time. My obligations kept me away during many of the difficult times associated with a newborn. After graduating from veterinary school, we moved to Colorado and I have practiced veterinary medicine since.
My daughter Julie and son Matt grew up as veterinarian’s kids. The nice weather months of the year, because of the nature of the business, found me working long hours and many weekends. The winter months were routinely slow for veterinary work, and therefore more time for family activities, but also less discretionary funds for those activities. These phenomena of less time more money, more time less money are a common problem of many small business owners, especially those who have businesses with a significant variation in seasonal activity. I have always wished I had given my kids more time, and I remember at the end of the summer there would always be a pledge from me to spend more time the next summer. My kids were asked to live in a world of wait ‘til next year.
As I neared Canon City the radio in my car blared in the customary fashion. You see I like to feel the music as well as hear it. Kenny Chesney’s song “Don’t Blink” suddenly roared from the radio as if someone was sending this personal message to a father on a mission to wish his son a happy 40th birthday. The song starts by describing an interview of a man on his 102nd birthday where the centenarian is asked his secret for longevity. He says, “don’t blink.” As I look back on my life and think about my son’s life, I realize I blinked. My children have children. My children now face those same problems of managing their families’ lives. I am sure I am a role model but maybe not such a positive role model. Some might say I was dedicated to my job; others would say I was a work-a-holic. Both are probably true. Nonetheless, I had blinked. A very special time had passed in both my children’s lives as well as my own, and we can never go back!
Today, both my daughter Julie and my son Matthew are outstanding adults, each living productive lives. Both are wonderful parents, and I am extremely proud of them and their families. Their success may be a tribute to the rule children grow up inspite of parents as often as because of parents. The good news is these two young adults don’t seem to have any residual negative effects from my absence. But I still have regrets.
Turning a less –than- perfect into a positive is still possible. As a member of the “olders” we have an opportunity to improve the life of the “youngers” by sharing our life experiences. Maybe “youngers” can be spared some later life regrets by learning from our regrets.
One absolute truth is there are few perfect situations in life. Some days are great, some are terrible, but most days are somewhere in between. And while we are living them, we can’t always be sure which are the good ones and which are not. But upon reflection, we can see how on some not-so-great days we had experiences that become some of the essential pieces that create the complicated, beautiful mosaics that are our lives. Ultimately, every day has the potential to be a good day, and if we blink, we may miss a really great one.