Time. When they say it’s fleeting, they’re not lying.

I have a very short list of things in my life that I don’t talk much about. If you know me, I am an open book. Ask me about pretty much anything, and I’ll shoot straight with you. I pride myself on my ability to be vulnerable… about most things.

There is one thing that I don’t talk much about. If you don’t know me well, you’ve likely never heard me share this. Even if you do know me well, I’ve probably kept it tucked away. 

It’s October 8th today, my birthday. It should be an awesome day. In all fairness, it has been fabulous. I had a great autumn walk this morning in the woods with my dog. I had a great session with one of our clients, doing what I love. My team took me out for lunch, appropriately COVID friendly. Tonight, Cristina and I shared an excellent dinner. It’s been a great day.

Here’s the part I rarely talk about…

Thirteen years ago, on Labor Day weekend, my dad invited me to a Minnesota Twins baseball game. He wanted to spend time with his son. He asked me to spend time with him. For some reason, I decided I was too busy, and I passed on the opportunity to hang out with my dad. Even though I had nothing going on that day, skipping this chance to spend time together was no big deal. There would be more chances. There always were.

Fast forward a month, to October 9th of that year. My dad and I hadn’t had the chance to connect on my birthday, and so the morning of the 9th he called me. He wished me a happy birthday, told me he loved me, and we made about three minutes of small talk before I had to get back to work. 

Just a few hours later, I got the call.

My dad had passed out in the store he owned with my mom, and they had rushed him to the hospital. When my brother called, all I recall him telling me was that I needed to get there fast… something about his heart… it wasn’t good. I picked up my other brother, and we silently turned the ninety-minute drive to the hospital into a sixty-minute commute.

By the time we got to my dad, the chaplain met us at his hospital room’s door. 

Every time October 8th rolls around, I can feel it in my chest. My body knows what’s coming. It’s heavy, and it makes me breathe just a little differently. The loss of my dad has haunted me for years. In particular, I’ve been plagued by thoughts of that baseball game I skipped. Reminders of that last opportunity I had to spend a day with my dad, just the two of us, that I passed up. I have not been able to forgive myself for letting that opportunity slip through my fingers.

That is, I haven’t forgiven myself until this morning. On that walk with my dog, I finally let it go. I finally forgave myself for missing my chance, and came to the realization that my dad knew how much I loved him. 

That, in itself, is a miracle. When I was in high school, I was a cigarette smoking, pot toking, booze drinking, girl-chasing mess. My dad saw the path I was on and did everything he could to pull from away from it. And I, the rebel teenager, did everything I could to push him away. For years, we fought. We yelled, we screamed, we shoved, and we battled. I made our house a living hell for everyone in it, and I didn’t care an ounce about anyone but myself. 

Through all that, my dad loved me. 

And once this prodigal son was ready to come crawling back home, my dad took me in with open arms. No speeches or “I told you so” moments. Just open arms and love. 

We spent the next handful of years, when I was in college and my first job, grabbing lunch together at McRudy’s Pub. We talked about high school basketball games and River Bats baseball. We hung out.

Today, when I took the time to reflect on all of that, I knew my dad and I were good. And I forgave myself.

That’s it. That’s the thing I rarely share, now out there in the light, because I’m finally good with it. I’m finally good with me. 

The Takeaway

Today, I want each of you to walk away with one idea. The next time you have the chance to spend time with someone you love, even if it’s a little inconvenient, don’t pass up the opportunity. I lived my life with a “we’ll catch up tomorrow” mindset… that is, until I lost my dad. Even now, I still battle it a little bit. There’s always so much work to be done, so much to do. But time doesn’t care about that. When the journey is done, it’s done – whether we’re ready or not. We need to savor every moment. We need to take advantage of every opportunity. And, we need to leave no room for regret.

I love you dad…

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– John