Father Time presents:
“Life & Times – Fathers and Their Views about Time”
Featuring a real-life dad offering his take on time
Johnny L. (California)
Occupation: Navy Retired/Disabled Veteran/Navy Contractor – Systems Engineer
Status: Married 22 years (1994-Present) with 2 daughters, ages 18 and 17
Wife is a Public School Librarian.
FT: Describe a key distinction you’ve made about time as a single man versus being a married man with children? E.g. when did time start to matter?
JL: Some back ground info: I was “engaged” to be married but didn’t due to military geographic separation to three separate women prior to my current wife. I waited a long time for “Miss Right” to come along and, I was the first of all my friends to get engaged and one of the last to actually get married.
I have always believed I was a one-woman type of guy, and there has never been a divorce in my family. Being married and having a family was something I always wanted and highly valued. The fact that I would have to wait until I was over 30 to be married was never in my life plans.
Once I announced my engagement, almost every guy I knew that said, “Johnny, don’t do it,” each had one thing in common: they had all been married at a very early age and never got to sow their oats. I did. I had quite a different perspective than them.
I loved the joy and success of my parents’ marriage. They were the loves of each others’ lives, and everyone could see it, though it was cut short after 16 years when my father died of a heart attack at age 45. My mother was 38 at the time.
My father had worked in a steel plant and my mother was a nurse. My mother was lost for years without him after his death, though I didn’t fully appreciate it at the young age I was. I was distracted with dealing with my own problems at that time.
What I had to deal with during my first three serious relationships/engagements, was how they all ended. They all basically died of “undesirable geography.” I was always gone being in the Navy, and inevitably we were forced to go our separate ways.
To the point that I am Facebook friends with all of them today with no remorse, regret or animosity. (Same for my wife and her Ex’s)
By the time I met my wife, I had learned a lot about the career I had chosen, and how I could, and hoped to make, a long and successful and meaningful relationship work. I was very lucky that I found a woman that could accept a military lifestyle. Plus, by age 30, I was totally done with being single.
So after successfully enduring the first long deployment apart from each other, we saw that we could do this, I asked her to marry me. From the moment we met we started talking about kids (initially just funning and being silly) so by the time we decided to try for one we were both ready. It took 14 months of trying to get pregnant. The second child took one attempt.
Given my time away throughout the second half of my military career made time with my wife and children so unbelievably precious. We did a lot together, but looking back since my oldest just went off to college, it wasn’t enough. Time spent with them as they went through their teen years began to be more far and in-between, and we had to really make more of an effort to do things together, especially with one leaving for college and the other one about to. I truly appreciate how time goes by so fast, and I try desperately every day to somehow slow it down.
The moment time really began to matter was the realization my daughters were leaving for college hit me, along with the fact that they are/were also truly leaving for the rest of their lives, and to begin their own lives. Life as I knew it to be was about to end, and subsequently change forever.
I knew what I had done to my mother by leaving with the military and living in other states. I did get to go back from time to time throughout my life, but it wasn’t like I lived down the street or over in the next town. And now my own children may do the same to me.
A quick footnote: In 2012, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer of the throat, and given only a 3 in 20 chance of survival. I had to look at my family’s faces when they were told there was a really good chance I would be gone soon, that we now had to make plans for a possible future without me. My cancer and positive diagnosis was given to me the very same week we lost our good friend who died after a long and hard battle with bone cancer. My wife and children and I watched her battle unsuccessfully over a four-year span. We were all devastated. She left a completely shattered husband who doted on her every breath, and three young daughters ages: 13, 11 and 7. And my family believed that this may be their future too. But in my case to date, after going through five surgeries, chemotherapy, and a full load of radiation treatment, God has spared us this tragedy, and I have been cancer free since Jan 2013.
Having a near-death type-of-experience like this really puts the importance of time spent with family not knowing any certainty of a future. It gave me a whole new perspective.
FT: Describe a time success story you’ve had as a father or as a family. For example: how you’ve managed the kids on your own so your wife can have free time, or any other discoveries or “hacks” your family has made to better manage or honor time.
JL: My children are both very smart, both on Deans’ lists and Honor Rolls. Both played sports at a very high and competitive levels. My wife bears most of the brunt and does a fantastic job of coordinating our daughters lives. (out of true love, I might add)
When our children had sporting events in two separate locations I would take one and she would take the other, and then we would switch back and forth to spend the time evenly.
When the children we younger I would often take the kids for Father-Daughter days to give my wife a bit of freedom when she wanted or needed it.
In the end with time flying by, I wish I had made even more of an effort to spend time with my children. I swear they went from toddlers to teenagers over night! Don’t take time for granted!
To quote Anthony Hopkins as Bill Parrish in Meet Joe Black: “I thought I was going to sneak away tonight. What a glorious night! Every face I see is a memory. It may not be a perfectly… perfect memory. Sometimes we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re all together, And you’re mine, for a night. And I’m going to break precedence and tell you my one candle wish: that you would have a life as lucky as mine, where you can wake up one morning and say, ‘I don’t want anything more.’ Sixty-five years. Don’t they go by in a blink?”
For me, all that means: Live life to the fullest. Through the ups and downs, try not to miss anything, because your life goes by in a blink.
Link to Part 3
Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker.