IS IT EVER TOO LATE?
With my heart racing I laid perfectly still, in the morning darkness, spellbound by the reality of a brand new day and the steady shadowy helicopter motion of the ceiling fan above me. My breath had been paced with anxiety but was light and quiet now as it waltzed, in sync, with the rhythm of my quiescent better half. Oh, how I love the peaceful sound of her breathing. I hung to the serenity of the moment for a time and then reluctantly departed from the coziness of our bed. I did so while looking upon the picturesque silhouette of my wife. In all the years of our marriage I had never expressed to her how calming the sight of her serene repose has had on my soul. The way her hair descended delicately about her eyes as her lips pouted, from time to time, in a kiss of relaxation and contentment filled me with a giant sense of gratitude just knowing she was mine. Just the sight of her, in these unruffled moments, satiated the very essence of my being. ‘I’ll tell her today.’ I thought and groggily walked blindly into the bathroom to wash my face to get ready for work.
The cold water refreshingly sprang to life a sensation of blood rushing to my cheeks, eyes and forehead as I shook off the morning’s lethargy. I bypassed my usual shower but took care of the “essentials” with some soap and a facecloth which I immediately threw into the hamper. I didn’t bother to shave. I liked the look of the five o’clock shadow that, literally, took me two days to grow. After brushing my teeth, I got dressed in a pair of flat front black slacks and a light baby blue oxford. I completed the ensemble with a pair of black leather slip-on Stacy Adams dress shoes, a black belt and a splash of Acqua di Parma cologne. Ready for work I turned off the bathroom light and floated quietly into the master. Outside the bedroom window the dawning sun’s hopeful fractured weak and ruddy rays of incandescence tussled through our narrowly drawn venetian blinds. There was still a chestnut of obscure darkness that filled the room. As I tiptoed out the door my wife whispered something longingly. “Don’t gooooo. Come back. I miss you.” I receded with just my head at the door and watched her as she conversed in her sleep. “I need you.” She murmured again lost in some far away dream. I smiled to myself and blew her a kiss. We would chuckle about this later since it is always me she accuses of talking in my sleep. It was a habit I never believed I had. I walked into each of my children’s bedrooms and found that they were not there. I checked the guest room and found Max, our golden retriever, on the floor licking his unmentionables. He didn’t acknowledge me as I gazed upon my little munchkins nestled together like kittens on our guest bed.
They slept huddled together so beautifully, so purely…I wanted to snuggle myself in between them and just soak them all in. ‘I would…but there was no time.’ I couldn’t help but wonder why they were in here instead of in each of their own beds. As I studied their sweet faces, their cheeks seemed a little puffy, a bit flush and I noticed there were a bunch of wadded up pieces of tissue surrounding them as if they had fallen asleep after a tissue fight. It was a bit odd, however I had seen them do this before. Something I would definitely inquire about when I call home later. As for the moment, I needed to get to the office so I quietly shut the guestroom door and made my way downstairs to the kitchen.
The coffeemaker was on a timer and the rich nutty aroma of roasted goodness had permeated the house. Where there was usually two empty coffee mugs on the counter…I had only found one. It’s a bit corny but my wife and I have matching mugs that say “I STILL do” hers must still be in the dish washer. I poured a cup, added some flavored creamer and held the mug in both hands taking in a deep robust inhalation of warm tranquility before partaking of that first glorious sip. ‘Life was good.’ I took a moment, relished in the unquiet quiet, closed my eyes and simply listened. The refrigerator hummed, the rumble of a truck engine revved, dulled and faded outside the house as the neighbor’s dog barked. The house settled and creaked as the faucet dripped periodically and the turtle doves cooed and fluted in the backyard trees. I took it all in, seemingly, for the very first time in my life.
I recognized, in that moment, I needed to slow down and start appreciating the little things. Life had felt so confounded lately. I needed to shake off the negative emotions that came with not being the man I always imagined myself to be. I had fallen short of my own expectations in life. I wasn’t where I wanted to be financially, spiritually or physically. I was tired of living in debt and feeling spiritually inept all while watching my waistline grow. It was time to make some changes.
I decided I’d start this day by walking to work. The distance from my house to the office was only about thirty-five minutes. I grabbed my computer bag, iphone, and locked the door behind me and headed out.
As I walked my mind was consumed with thoughts of my boss. Our relationship wasn’t the best. We didn’t see eye to eye on many issues and though our relationship remained professional and cordial there was often unspoken tension between us. As I took in the fresh morning air I resolved, within myself, to fix our relationship or at least take the first steps to do so. Life was too short to hold on to grudges and at the end of the day he was my boss and I needed to give him that deference. I enjoyed the work I did and, quite honestly, I appreciated the opportunity that he’d given me two years ago. ‘It was time to put our differences aside.’ A block from the office, cars buzzed passed at a busy pace. At the corner of 6th and Bunker I patiently waited for the walk signal to illuminate. When it did I stepped off the curb just as a black SUV took a right hand turn without yielding and nearly clipped me. The driver, clearly distracted by his smart phone, never so much as tapped his breaks or even looked my way. I was appalled and shaken but grateful to be alive.
The office was quiet. Only a handful of folks had made it in yet and I could hear them chit-chatting quietly in their cubicles. I heard my boss on the phone and so made a b-line to his office door. I wanted to start the day off right. As I ambled over I could hear that the conversation was not a good one. There was some yelling, a couple curse words and the slamming of the phone. As I peered into his office I noticed his head was down cupped in his hands. “Everything ok Tom?” I asked. He just shook his head “no” without making eye contact. It was clear that this was not the right time to make amends but a very good time to offer my friendship if he needed it. “If you need anything…I’m here for you.” I said. He huffed with his head in his hands. It was obvious he wasn’t ready to talk and so I awkwardly excused myself and went into my office. I threw myself into my work with a new kind of energy. I finished three proposals and scheduled a number of prospect meetings for the following week. I got caught up on my CRM updates and completed my expense reports. It was a highly productive day and before I knew it…the day was over. I packed up and headed home. I checked on Tom but it seemed he had left for the day. ‘I’d catch him tomorrow.’
Despite feeling a bit invisible today there was an extra pep in my step as I walked home. I couldn’t wait to see my wife and kids. The one thing I could always count on, each day, as a father and husband was an excited greeting from my children and a warm embrace and smile from the love of my life. It’s one of the greatest treasures a man could ever receive. And yet, in my own selfishness, I had taken them for granted. ‘Never again.’
As I approached my house I noticed several cars in our driveway and on our street. ‘What was this?’ I wondered. I made my way into the entrance of my house where I heard my wife and children sobbing. Adrenaline filled my veins as I burst into the living room running to them. “What’s wrong babe? What has happened?” I said. “What’s wrong?”
They couldn’t hear or see me.
“I want my daddy.” My little girl cried and my wife brought her in tighter. “I know sweetie…we all want Daddy to be home.” The tears flowed endlessly from my wife’s eyes as she choked back her emotion. It finally hit me. The day began to make more sense now. My wife talking longingly in her sleep, my children surrounded by tissue, only one mug on the counter, nearly getting hit by an SUV and my boss ignoring me.
But…I couldn’t be gone. I couldn’t be dead. I was finally ready to make some real changes in my life. “I’m right here!” I yelled. “Daddy IS home…I’m right here sweetheart!…I’m right here!”. I went to them and as I did I fell into an abyss of pitch black darkness.
I heard my wife’s sleepy soft voice reach me from obscurity. “Honey, you’re talking in your sleep again.” I groggily opened my eyes.
With my heart racing I laid perfectly still, in the morning darkness, spellbound by the actuality of a brand new day and the helicopter motion of the ceiling fan above me. My breath had been paced with anxiety but was light and quiet now as it waltzed, in sync, with the rhythm of my quiescent better half…