I believe in simple moments that connect the generations together…
I am 14 years old, sitting with my father in lawn chairs in our backyard, watching a summer thunderstorm building. Our sweat; from just mowing the lawn, is slowly cooling. After several minutes of comfortable silence; and looking straight ahead, out at heat lightning popping on the horizon, Dad says;
“You know if I was struck dead right now by the lightning from that coming storm – you should not weep or be sad. I am 48 years old. I’ve led a full life. Known the love of a good, truly beautiful woman. Raised a family together. Been off to war – and through luck and the grace of god, returned whole in mind and body. I have helped many people as a doctor and had a good career. I traveled all over the world, fished some of the great rivers and spent marvelous days outside in the woods. Mind you I don’t wish to die right now, but everything after this point is just gravy.”
I love the way Dad summed up his life so succinctly; with such appreciation, and then gently shared it with me. That moment reasonates somewhere marrow deep in me.
Now; at age 47, I sit in the shade with my teenage son and my Dad in Dad’s backyard. Dad tires easily, sometimes he walks unsteadily on his new knee and his hands tremble slightly from the Parkinson’s. My son is tall for his age and strong, he works like a man. Our yard work is finally done and the sweat slowly cools. I listen to their voices, an easy conversation – ranging from baseball and computers to cars and girls.
A summer thunderstorm is building and rumbling noisily. The air suddenly shifts – that freshening, ozone smell rides in on the breeze. Lightning flickers sharp and yellow, up high in cotton clouds. Dad goes in the house to clean up and fetch drinks.
Turning towards my son, I say;
“You know young lad, if I was struck dead right now by lightning from those thunder bumpers – you should not be sad in any way. I’ve lived almost half a century and led a full life. I’ve known the love of a wonderful woman – beautiful inside and out. Together we’ve raised a family and been blessed to watch you and your sister grow. Through good fortune, I have not known war first-hand. I’ve had a good career as a businessman. I’ve traveled the world. I’ve flown planes, climbed mountains and fished some of the great rivers. I’ve spent perfect days hiking and camping, lots of them with you. Mind you – I don’t wish to die just this minute, but at this point in the game, well – it’s all just extra innings. My life is rich. I’m thankful. Each day seems to me a gift.”
Dad brings out lemonade from the kitchen. We sit together watching the storm come in.