22 JunGood Fortune
I came home tonight thinking that I would take my bicycle for a ride on the back road. I have a seven mile route I like to ride over a gravel road that takes me out among the sagebrush and junipers. At the top of the final hill I like to stop and listen. It’s usually very quiet. The sound of the cars on the highway four miles away is faint. Mainly I hear wind and crickets. It’s a relaxing sound to catch my breath to. I turn around on the top of that hill and come back. It’s a long pedal after you lose all your altitude going down one hill only to have an even longer climb up another. After that hill, though, it is downhill for two miles all the way home. I arrive feeling invigorated and manly.
As I prepared to go out to my bike my eleven-year-old daughter came in and said, “Dad, we need to do something fun.” She said this with a bit of a pout like I owed it to her.
“I’m going on a bike ride up the canyon,” I told her.
She turns to her friend and asked, “You want to come?”
Clearly she didn’t understand me. This is “my” bike ride; the one that I ride really fast for seven miles that she would not enjoy. I thought this out loud and she got the picture. She and her friend went out back to play.
After changing my shoes I and was heading for the door I spotted my youngest son playing on the computer. He is a computer addict. All of his conversation revolves around the things he does on a computer. If we take him somewhere it’s not long before he starts complaining that we need to go home. He doesn’t say it, but it’s because he wants to get back to the computer. This addiction has caused my wife and I to worry. We’ve laid down computer restrictions, but he often sneaks back on when we aren’t paying attention.
I called to him. “Off the computer.” To my surprise he immediately took off his headphones and obeyed.
“Okay, let me get my shoes,” he said.
What? He thinks he’s coming with me?
Through the back window I could see the other kids running around in the back yard. That’s where he should be headed.
“I’m going for my canyon ride.” I’d already been through this with his sister. I’ve had kids come on this ride before and there are usually tears because it is so far and we ride so fast.
“I like the canyon,” he said, pulling on one shoe. There was no question in his mind that he was coming.
“I go all the way up on the old road,” I added.
“I like that ride,” he said, working his foot into the other shoe.
I’m just about to come right out and tell him that he can’t come when it occurs to me what I’m doing. I’m trying to talk him out of doing the very kind of thing I wanted him to do when I called him off the computer. It also occurs to me that this is my youngest son. With the seven other kids in front of him he and I haven’t spent very much time together. Sometimes when we pass in the house we look at each other like, “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” I realize that a bike ride with him would be a very good thing—a far better thing than a “serious” exercise bike ride by myself. He was already heading out the door to get his bike, so I just followed. I had him call his sister and her friend to see if they wanted to come, but they were already happily involved in another game.
My son and I rode up the canyon road and found a trail I had heard about that takes us back around to the town via the graveyard. We had to walk our bikes up some really steep parts and back down some other steep parts (his breaks aren’t very good). He chatted to me the whole way. It was a great ride. As we came back into town past the graveyard my son noted that “the flag was waving beautifully.” In his own words that I can’t repeat he communicated that the the flag was waving perpendicular to the setting sun’s rays and the colors shone brightly. He’s only nine and his desire and ability to articulate his feelings made me proud and warm in side.
I spend a lot of time with my children. I’m not bragging. In fact, it’s almost a fault. I barely make enough money to keep my family in home and food. I could spend a little less time with my family and work a little harder to try to make things more secure. I read a book about eight high profile executives who have large happy families even while the executives put in a high number of hours to run their companies. Somehow, even after all the time they put in at work they are able to give their wives and children the time they need. They are very impressive in time management and priority choices.
So what about me? How come I can’t do that? Sometimes it really bothers me that I don’t do better for my family. But then I am struck by good common sense. My family isn’t getting in the way of my success. What else could I have been doing a 7:45 in the evening when I went on that ride with my son that would have been better for my family? I had already put in a full day at two different jobs to support my family. They aren’t “executive” level jobs with high pay, but they are respectable and are what I am able to do.
I’m pretty sure that I spend more time with my children than those executives, but this isn’t because I am lazy; it’s only because my line work allows me to. If I am allowed to spend more time with my family but don’t, then I‘m a fool indeed. Quite by accident I have found myself in a position where I can often bring my kids to work with me. I am able to run them to activity appointments during the day or meet them in my shop after school. Sometimes they get to come on trips with me on my second job. Would I give all this up for more money? Maybe, if “more money” didn’t mean I couldn’t spend enough time with my family even if it’s less than I do now. In the meantime I won’t complain about my good fortune; I’ll just get back to enjoying the ride.