Recently I was the proud father-of-the bride at my daughter’s wedding in San Luis Obispo. It was a wonderful event with boundless joy and excitement shared by all attendees. And in the eyes of the newlyweds sparkled the wonderful hopes and expectations for their new life. I was happy, proud and amazed at how quickly time had passed to bring us to this auspicious moment. Wasn’t this the same little girl I used to carry in a backpack as we strolled the Capitola beaches in an attempt to walk off a momentary fussiness?
I found myself reviewing our years together and asking myself if I had been a good father to this amazing woman who evolved so quickly before my eyes. I also began to reflect on the kind of a father, spouse and friend I have been over the years that are suddenly numbering more than I can easily count:
Kids. My father was a hard-working physician whose career required him to continually stay current on new developments in medicine. His evenings were typically spent studying, which enabled him to be the incredibly talented doctor he was. But he always made time for me. Whether it was fishing on the weekend, throwing the baseball or attending a local symphony, dad made an effort to be a part of my life. And he never ceased to share how proud he was of each of my accomplishments, no matter how insignificant.
What about me and my kids? Was I too busy with my job and other interests to spend quality time with my children? Did those children have any idea how proud a father I was for so many things they did?
I hope I shared my feelings. Even though it was a struggle to make ends meet in the early days, I hope I was not always too busy to express those heartfelt emotions. My kids are bright, but they are not mind readers. It is up to me to share with them what matters most.
Spouse. I hope that you are as fortunate as I am to be spending my life with the person who is ideally fitted for me: Someone who accepts me for who I am, the good along with the bad, while maintaining an ability to overlook the many little idiosyncrasies that we each possess. I know how fortunate I am. I do not take it for granted. But do I share those feelings when I have the chance?
I hope she knows how much I appreciate all of her efforts, respect her intellect and love her sense of humor. I could not imagine a life without her at my side. Over the years, I have come to realize the wonderful effect a little attention to detail can have, such as noticing the latest haircut or complimenting a new dress. But do I utilize that secret power to say something flattering as often as I might? My wife deserves it for so many reasons, but it is up to me to take the time to say it now.
Friends. As is often the case, over the years I have lost contact with many people who were important to me in earlier days. Friendships I felt sure would last a lifetime have petered out. If it were not for the occasional pictures I discover in old boxes and albums, some memories might fade completely from memory.
But there are others, a short list for sure, who I am still in contact with. It is so simple to pick up the phone and catch up, but how often do I? E-mail and traditional mail boxes are readily available, but I fail to take advantage of their convenience. These A-list acquaintances certainly deserve to be made aware of my feelings, and when I finally do make contact we quickly engage as if it were only yesterday we last talked. I cannot help but feel a bit younger at heart reliving days gone by and special moments shared with these close friends. The effort to connect not only allows me to share what matters most, but affords the same opportunity to my friend.
At the end of the day, when I look back on what I accomplished, I hope to recall a compliment expressed, an encouraging word shared and a well-timed smile beamed. With so many ways to say how I feel, I hope I take the opportunity to do so. The clock is ticking, the wedding day has come and gone, but those powerful feelings are still mine to share. What better time to share what matters than now?
Dave Bernard is the author of "I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be". Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.