17 years since yesterday

“Hey guys, give me 10 minutes,” I asked. “I need a ride to rent a car, if we hurry you can drop me off on your way to school.” My flight to Florida was canceled due to the heavy snow that dominated across the Eastern Seaboard. It was the weekend of Mac Tools’ annual tool show — not attending is not an option — so I decided that if the airlines couldn’t get me to Orlando, an automobile could!

Upon our arrival at the rental lot, we all departed the pickup for hugs and kisses, the mutual, “Drive safe” and “Have a great weekend.” I grabbed my luggage by the curb and headed to the front counter. As I approached the door, my body stopped as my hand grabbed the hand rail instead of the door handle. I rotated around to watch my daughter drive away. What I saw wasn’t what I expected!

FLASHBACK

Images from the past 17 years raced through my mind in those brief moments that I stood clinched to the railing:

• She was beautiful and precious from the first, when our gift from God, Jenica, arrived.
• Hanging on to Mom’s fingers with the first steps.
• “Call your parents — she just said her first words.”
• “OK, Dad is going to let go, just keep pedaling you’ll be fine.”
• “Here Dad, Mom and I made this today in my Easy Bake Oven, hope you like it.”
• “You did great today playing soccer, Mom and Dad are very proud.”
• First karate class, going to tournaments and watching her walk out on the mat at the end of the test in preparation to receive her black belt.
• Taking pictures before her first prom.
• Driving lessons.
• Our hearts pounding as she stood on stage and finished 2nd in the Miss Maine Teen pageant.

It seemed just yesterday I was pulling her in a sleigh all bundled up, today a young lady drove away.

TIME TO REFLECT

On my drive to Florida I thought a lot about two gentlemen that I worked with years ago that would often give advice and share stories. One Christmas, armed with the knowledge that my family enjoyed walks in the woods, they left a child carrier in my vehicle with a note that said, “Enjoy these times with Jenica — it won’t be long before she is wearing this with her child.”

Back then, as new parents, we had our whole lives ahead to do things together and watch our child grow. We both were planning where we wanted to buy a house and were still fresh in our careers, our “bucket list” seemed to have no end; having a child changes a lot about life and revamps the “list.” The items that once were near the top of the list were gladly bumped back by new more important ones; there were now three of us! Each day brought new lessons and started to become very busy for everyone. (Three years later, we added a son to the family and again things changed — though this time it seemed easier.)

I am not sure if staying clinched to that railing was an attempt to hold back time or to steady my stance upon realizing my denial of their advice and her growing up finally hitting home. I’ll be honest, it was tough letting go whether for either reason.

These thoughts are no surprise to some who have no doubt lived it; looking back asking: Where did the time go? Did I do enough? Did I set a good example and teach right from wrong? Did I involve them in enough activities to ignite that spark in their minds to go after and achieve their desires?

Thinking back across the years on my flight home, I realized that my wife and I did everything we could to show our kids love and support. We have done well, and with no regrets.

In writing this, I hope that I can provoke thought and share some advice with the young families on how quickly your life will go by while trying to do the right thing for everyone.

No matter how busy life tends to be, and for a self-employed business owner it gets pretty hectic, always place the ones you love at the top of any list and create as many moments as possible with them. Life pulls us in a lot of directions; add to that a business … spare time for what might be classified as “small stuff” is swallowed by the seemingly “more pressing” stuff. Reevaluate the “in the moment/more pressing” vs. “What am I missing?,” “Will I have this chance again?,” and “Is everything I am chasing in balance with all of its costs?”

Take it from a teary-eyed dad: No matter how busy life tends to be, always place the ones you love at the top of any list and create as many moments as possible. Saying, “We can do that tomorrow,” seems harmless enough — it’s only a day away. Just don’t let 17 years pass before you notice!

Joe Poulin is a mobile tool distributor based in Gray, Maine, for Mac Tools. Send any comments or feedback you have for Joe by e-mail to dpoulin2@maine.rr.com.

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