Despite the stress of me being out of my element, I love vacations and the family days I can spend with my wife, my children and my parents.
Building the Days I Can’t Build Again
Today I’ve got one finger pointed at everyone else and three pointed back at me. There isn’t a holiday in the year I haven’t missed. Everyone in the family has had a birthday they’ve celebrated without me. I’ve missed the roast turkey and fireworks as well as anniversaries and Mother’s Day. My family even opened Christmas gifts without me one year when someone else’s family needed me more. Often, missing important family days came because I had no control over when international trade shows were scheduled. Others just came because my job required significant travel and it’s tough to plan around the birthdays and anniversaries of nine children, a wife, and my parents. Oh, I have justified (and continue to justify) the missing of important family days, knowing those are days I’ll never get back.
That type of change was a lesson I have continued to carry with me for over 25 years and it is something I use in planning family days.
Perhaps it’s because I have missed so many of those family days that I go out of my way to make sure that I set other days in stone for the ones I love. I once had a wise boss who was more like an older brother to me than an employer. One day I questioned his rearrangement of employees, placing them on different jobs than where they were most efficient. He simply said that a change was as good as a rest. All of us worked a ton of hours in that job. We were all well compensated and like many people in their young twenties, we were happy to get the overtime and to replace sleep time with entertainment. You might say we were more worried about dollars than sense. With that much exhaustion playing out in a workplace, my boss had learned that he could keep people more alert by moving them around. That one simple principle increased productivity, decreased waste and improved attitudes. That type of change was a lesson I have continued to carry with me for over 25 years and it is something I use in planning family days.
Amy laughed because she knew that despite the stress of me being out of my element, I love the family days I can spend with her and my kids.
I learned a long time ago that I can get a break and recharge my batteries without spending the time doing my favorite things. And you know what? I soon found that my favorite things were not what I thought they were. As it turns out, my favorite thing is spending time with my family so I always try to remember that the most urgent thing is not always the most important thing. I hate finding sand in everything, for days, including places in my body where there shouldn’t be sand. But I love watching my children play at the beach. My oldest sons have their favorite stories that they recount, out of earshot from me, about profanity laced tirades from me when things would go wrong on vacations. (Picture Clark Griswold sounding off about his no-good boss when his own Christmas Vacation fell apart.) But my sons also talk about lessons learned and activities on family days that were enjoyed by everyone. After one particularly eventful summer vacation, I told Amy that it was a good thing that she placed value on family vacations, because if she was ever gone, it would be the end of them. She smiled and told me she hoped if anything ever happened to her, that I would find someone else and continue on with our family. I told her if that ever happened, there would be a prenuptial contract excluding family vacations. Amy laughed because she knew that despite the stress of me being out of my element, I love the family days I can spend with her and my kids.
A fishing family day is often just a fifty-one year-old son and a 78 year-old child trolling around on a boat he only could have dreamed of when I was a child.
As a child, I loved it when my dad took the family on weekly fishing trips to his favorite reservoir. The old boat had a small motor that took forever to get to the fishing hole. It also had bailing buckets so we could stay afloat. Mom packed homemade sandwiches and generic soda into a cooler and every Saturday of fishing season was spent angling for trout. Those were fond memories. But fishing, for me, has become more of a chore. It’s not really what my kids want to spend their time doing, either. My father is the child, now. He had a stroke almost seven years ago and he has been confined to an electric wheelchair, since. Wanting to preserve my dad’s ability to continue his favorite pastime, my brother bought a large pontoon boat for my dad and keeps it in a slip at my dad’s favorite reservoir; Strawberry. Once a week, I take my dad out and he drives his wheelchair off the dock, over the ramp and to the back of the boat. Dad has really slowed down over the past few months. Even communication is extremely difficult for him. Even understanding what I say comes with a lot of effort on his part. Our trips are mostly silent now, except for the splashing of an occasional fish going into the net. And a fishing family day is often just a fifty-one year-old son and a 78 year-old child trolling around on a boat he only could have dreamed of when I was a child.
The inappropriate joke is a lie, though. I cherish my family and family days no matter how much I complain about them.
I complain far too much about family days. In fact, at one point, I even told my brother, who will be the executor of my parent’s estate, that when the day finally comes I only want three things. He laughed at the dark joke as I counted off the boat, a gallon of gas and a match. The inappropriate joke is a lie, though. I cherish my family and family days no matter how much I complain about them. I am thankful for a family that pushes me to make time for people and family days. And one day, when I turn back into a child, I hope that I will have set enough of an example that one of my boys will load me into a boat and drag me around the old reservoir while serving me contraband that has been forbidden by my wife.
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