Recently, I met a fascinating man who was about my age. We had the opportunity to speak at length and I came away feeling so so grateful for this short interaction. He was visiting from 1000 miles away and the chances are that we will never meet again, but I honestly think that I will never forget this conversation.
In the course of our visit, somehow we were led to the topic of having kids, single parenting, families. He shared with me that decades ago, his wife had decided that she no longer wanted to be a wife or to be a full-time mother. He was at the peak of his career and came home one day to find that she'd left him....left him with three children, ages 7-14. I was so impressed that he didn't find fault in his ex-wife. He said, "She felt that she had her reasons and I understood." Impressive.
He went on to share some of the details of how he had moved his family to a new location to further his career and how difficult it was at times. He was very specific in mentioning that there were days that he would come in the door after working for ten to twelve hours, only to be greeted by two dogs who needed to be walked, as well as three children who were anxious for help with homework, dinner to be prepared, a listening ear and a home that needed attention, laundry that needed to be done and on and on. He was in no way complaining, just sharing the facts.
He confessed that one evening, he came in the door, did all that was done, got everyone settled into bed and he said, out loud, with tears falling down his face, "My God, will this ever end!?" And then came the poignant part of the conversation...
He continued, "And, my new friend, be careful what you ask for because you may get it." He went on to tell me that the years went by, the dogs passed away and one at a time, the children grew up and began their own lives elsewhere. He teared up and said that one day, he walked into his home of a decade and it was empty. For the first time, it was empty. It was quiet. He said that he walked into the home and realized that this was the first time in forever that he was truly alone. And he wept.
He said that he remembered that plea to God all those years ago and realized that he had gotten exactly what he had asked for... it had ended. He was alone. He said that he was literally overwhelmed by loneliness at this realization. He said, "And that's when I realized it...this life is about family. Everything we do, every thing, is about family. The joy in this life comes from being with family, serving our family, being a family. He went on to say, "Make the most of the time you have left with your kids. They will be gone very very soon. And things will never be the same again. Never forget that family is everything."
We said our goodbyes and, like I say, we may never meet again. I don't even know his full name, but this man made such an impression on me. He was not from the valley and actually was born and raised in another part of the world, another nation. We were of different religious beliefs and backgrounds. BUT, we connected over what we both agreed to be the most important thing that we have in common, in just one short conversation.
It's the middle of summer. I am already hearing comments from moms, "I can't wait til school starts! These kids are making me crazy!" I'm on the other end of the spectrum. I love summertime because the kids are home... even if they sleep too much, work too little, argue, make messes and pester each other at times. I'll take that any day because... it's better than being alone!
I appreciate this man's sentiments. They brought tears to my eyes and will be words that I hope never to forget.
Life is good. HOT, and good!