First thing in the mornings, my wife often asks, “Guess what happened five years ago today?” Or sometimes, it’s three years ago or eight years ago or 10 years go.
I guess she gets these notifications on her phone via social media.
Friday, she asked, “Barry, do you know what you were doing 11 years ago today?” My typical response, without thinking very long and while still trying to get my eyes totally open, is, “No, what?” Come to discover, on October 16, 2009, I was at school helping Erin, then a second grader, carve her own pumpkin.
I remember that day well. I took a break from newspaper deadlines to go be a part of a fun activity with my elementary school student. I wasn’t very good at carving a pumpkin, but that didn’t really matter. It was more about the father and daughter experience — the smiles and laughs.
Ironically, on October 16 of this year, Erin, a college freshman, was driving all alone from Hattiesburg to Little Rock, Ark., to spend the weekend with her older sister Emma.
That’s about six hours or like 375 miles.
To say Pam and I were nervous parents, even though she’s all grown up, would be an understatement.
I was very busy Friday — which was a good thing. I didn’t have time to dwell on it.
That afternoon I got a text from Pam, “Erin is there.”
“Whew!” I thought.
Now that question from Pam Friday morning, which dealt with Erin’s elementary school days, and Erin’s long road trip by herself that day really made me stop and think how quickly the years go by.
From making pumpkins at age 7 to driving across a couple of states as an 18-year-old.
Where did those 11 years go?
Looking back, I often wish I would have left the office more often in my many years of newspaper work. That’s not to say I wasn’t a part of my children’s activities. I was. But Pam was able to participate more than me, which is one reason why we decided to have her work a part-time schedule during their school years.
Too many times, I said, “I have to work.”
And I did. This is a community newspaper, with a small staff, that demands a lot of time. But that still doesn’t make me stop thinking — “well, maybe, I could have gone.”
The children always said they understood. And I believe they did. But I also recall them sometimes hanging their heads a bit when I gave that response. And that still hurts.
I really think I missed out on some important things with my children, particularly Monday and Tuesday activities (the newspaper’s production days).
And the same holds true even today.
I missed a shot at going to an Atlanta Braves playoff game October 12 with Emma, now 29, because it was on a Monday night in Arlington, Texas.
But most importantly, when that particular memory of the pumpkin-carving with Erin popped up on Pam’s phone, it made me cherish all the good times with Emma, Andy and Erin. And I know there’s more to come, even though they’re adults.
Spend time with your children. Go to their activities. Have fun. Enjoy. Time is ticking rapidly, for all of us.