Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Saddest Moments

We endure many sad moments through the course of a lifetime: illness, death, failure to achieve a major goal, violence, war, seeing loved ones deal with divorce, and many hundreds of other personal tragedies and disappointments. Sometimes it's no wonder that people seek professional treatment to help them cope.

I have no intent to trivialize such things, but one of the saddest moments of my life occurs once or twice almost every week. Read on, and maybe you'll understand.

I just left the house to go to work. Normally that happens before 5:00 am, while half the world still slumbers. Among those slumbering masses are my wife and 2-1/2 year-old son. It's not so hard to get going that early in the morning when I'm the only one awake: no wait to take a hot shower, no large breakfasts to prepare and clean up after, and I kiss everyone goodbye in their sleep.

It's an entirely different story when I have to work the closing shift, as I do today. Everyone wakes up sometime between 7:00 and 8:00. We gather around the table for breakfast together. It's actually a nice way to start the day. I watch some cartoons with my son and make ducks out of Play-Doh.

Before long it's time to get ready for work, and things start to get difficult. Especially when I emerge from the bedroom dressed for work. My son walks around the house saying, "Home? Home?" When I tell him his Daddy has to leave for work, he is crestfallen. "Sad," he says as he continues to trek through the house. "Sad."

Are you with me so far? I sit down and he comes to me for a hug. If we forget the hug, I'll see him in the window as I back out out of the drive -- his arms extended at his sides and the word "hug" repeatedly forming on his lips -- I jump from the car and run back in to get my hug.

After saying our goodbyes, I back into the street and look for him at the window. I roll down the car window and wave. He waves back. I blow him a kiss, and he blows back. Again I wave. Again, he waves back.

Today, he drew the curtain to his face, not wanting to see me drive off. I waited for him to reappear, not wanting him to look up and see that I'd already gone. I waved again, and he waved again, and I slowly drove off down the road.

My family means everything in the world to me: my wife, my son, and soon our daughter. I don't need success in the world to be happy or feel useful. My family is my success. Being Daddy is my usefulness. Daddy is who I am, before all else.

I'm not quite at work yet, nearly an hour after leaving, and already I have something special I'm looking forward to: that welcome home hug from my son when I next see him. Unfortunately, with closing tonight and opening tomorrow, that next hug won't come for some 32 hours.

These are my saddest moments. Some people live from one paycheck to the next. I live from one hug to the next.


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