By guest author Rick Boyer
If anybody ever invents a time machine, I want the first one off the assembly line. I’ll have a thousand things I want to do. I’ll explore history and find out what really happened on a number of occasions. I’ll return to my childhood and try to make peace with some of the hard things that happened to me, and also revisit the happier times at Granddad’s farm with my cousins. But the very first thing I’ll do when I get behind the wheel of that time machine is to go back to when my children were little.
Oh, what I’d give to see my grown sons as little boys again! I used to get bored sometimes with pulling them in the wagon or pushing them on the swings, but I’d give a quart of blood to be able to do it one more time. I don’t think now I could ever tire of it. To carry them on my shoulders again; to tickle them until they screamed. And ah, the luxury of having nobody in the house who knew that Dad wasn’t perfect (that is, except Mom). To be able to hug and kiss my boys without embarrassing them. I appreciated what I had back then. But now I know I should have appreciated it more.
Back in my beloved house painting days, I was working on a big house for a nice old widow named Mrs. Holt. It was the summer of 1979 and I was sweating away in the sun when my wife dropped by the job on her way home from a prenatal visit to the doctor. I climbed down off my ladder to hear the news. Marilyn was due to deliver soon and I wondered what the doctor had said.
“He said I’d better hurry up and get home,” she told me. “Said it could come any time.”
We were planning our second home birth. Marilyn had been treated so callously at the hospital when Tim was born that I vowed I’d never take her there to give birth again. So third son Nathan was born at home, much to the shock of our neighbor, Sandy, across the street. I’d walked across to tell her the news that the baby had come and she didn’t believe it. I wouldn’t be that calm, she said. She’d come over in a few minutes and see for herself.
I wish I’d had my camera ready. I’d love to have a shot of Sandy’s face when Marilyn first threw the covers back and showed tiny Nate beside her .
When Marilyn had driven away from the job that summer day, she’d agreed to call me immediately if Number Four gave her any strange sensations before my regular time to arrive home. Mrs. Holt stopped to chat with me a few minutes later. When I told her it looked like a new little one would be along soon, she smiled.
“You’re a rich man, Mr. Boyer,” she said warmly.
And I was. And I am. But it’s striking how often I forget and have to be reminded that I really am wealthy. Sometimes, I feel sort of poor. I’ve long suspected that whoever said that the best things in life are free never paid an obstetrician’s bill.
In the early days of our parenthood, it sometimes seemed that life would go on forever as it was going then. We’d never have any money, we’d never have a child old enough to babysit the siblings, we’d never have air conditioning in the house or own a dependable car. I was so tense as a young man that I made life harder for myself and for those I loved. I let the stresses of life rob me of a lot. Ben Franklin was right when he said that there’s “no putting an old man’s head on a young man’s shoulders.” Still, I’m irritated with myself for letting seasons go by without fully tasting the days.
I’ve heard Marilyn say that life was tougher when she had three children than it was with eight, because when she had only three, there were no big helpers. Two were in diapers, and firstborn Rickey was a little fireball. Now, our youngest is a teenager and we have young adults in the house who pretty much run the home operation for us. We are also blessed with some wonderful children-in-law and grandchildren, but the extra needs of the family are felt, too. It takes a tremendous expenditure of time, finances and effort to do what we do.
But by now we know that it won’t always be this way. We’ve had better times and worse times and probably both kinds will visit us again. All we know for sure is that everything that comes to pass, passes.
And a lot has passed. Baby Nate now is a big man with a wife and children of his own. He had a younger brother who was also born in the little yellow house. We named him Josh and we lost him to heaven through leukemia seventeen years later. And today we have fourteen children, seven children-in-law and fourteen wonderful grandchildren. And we’ve lived long enough to know that everybody’s grandchildren are wonderful.
I may be weird, but I sometimes think about the day I’ll die. If I’m conscious, I’ll have a lot to reflect upon. I think I’ll be happy to go, because I want to see Jesus. And I want to see Josh. It will be sweet. But before I go, I’ll be thinking about the sweet times I’ve had down here and giving thanks.
There must be very few people on earth who are as rich as I am. That is, if riches are to be measured by how many people you love and who love you in return. On my last day on earth, I will be counting my wealth in terms of memories. I will remember sunny days with a propane grill and a back yard full of happy people, all of my own blood. I’ll remember watching my children dance around the kitchen to lively Christmas music with their nieces and nephews. I’ll remember pushing my kids on the swing and in later years, watching them push their kids. I’ll remember tubing down a mountain river with my children and grandchildren around me in a jolly flotilla.
Bill Gates, eat your heart out.
If you’re a young parent with young children, your life isn’t easy. That’s why God gives you those responsibilities while you have the energy of youth with which to handle it all. If you don’t mind a friendly word of advice from a guy who has spent the last few decades trading energy for experience, I’d ask you to stop and smell the roses. They’re right there in front of you—in your preschooler’s cheeks. Beware of the tendency to get wrapped up in getting everything done; it will never be all done. This season of your life, like every season of life, will pass before you know it. Savor it while it’s here.
Turn off the vacuum cleaner for a minute and go hug your kids.