It never dawned on me, until several years later, that a poignant moment had slipped past me, one that has became a permanent image forever imprinted indelibly onto my consciousness. I was shuffling papers, the mail, doing odds and ends around the house one Fall day, when a knock at the door caught my attention. I stopped what I was doing momentarily and looked out the window; it was a neighborhood friend of Kevin’s, my ten year old son. I didn’t go to the door, instead called up the stairs for him.
“Kev, someone’s here for you,” I yelled up and went back sorting bills.
It was a crisp, but sunny, windless Fall day, the leaves were turning colors, becoming brilliant reds, oranges, golds and tawny browns here in the mid-Atlantic coastal region where we lived, and the boys wore only light jackets. It was a school day, and this was after classes in the warmth of the late afternoon. Kev ran past me, out the door, through the screened-in porch to the swinging door. In a moment, after conferring with Jeremy, he rushed back.
“Dad, can I go fishing with Jeremy?” He yelled through the open door, staring at me, just his head visible as his body hung back, waiting for quick permission.
“Sure, go ahead, just be back for dinner,” I instructed him.
I remember thinking, wasn’t this was an ideal place for children to grow up, and thankful that we decided to move away from the city suburbs further east into the country. Our home was nestled in a little community set deep into a pine forest with several small lakes scattered around for swimming, canoeing, fishing and ice skating in the winter. There were no sidewalks, or street lights, no school buses either, the children rode their bikes to school. An idyllic place to raise a family.
Kevin grabbed his fishing rod, poised always ready and waiting in the far corner of the porch and a few hooks and bobbers, and was quickly outside with Jeremy. I heard the porch screen door slam and I knew they had gone off to fish, not unlike Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, side by side, jabbering away about bait and techniques.
My mind was back onto the project at hand, drifting away, when I heard the porch door springs squeak and another slam. There was Kevin, sticking his head through the door again, panting, looking at me, his face hopeful.
“Hey dad, wanna come?” He asked.
I thought about it for a minute, then decided I should stick to my tasks here and finish up. “Nah, you go ahead, son.” I said.
That was it, that was the moment. I didn’t know it at the time, but those invitations wouldn’t come around very much any more, it was a turning point. This was a time when Kevin was at an age that he was just as happy to be hanging out with his dad or his friends, or both. I should have gone fishing with him, I know that now. Makes me melancholy whenever I think about it. Those days of innocence, unrecognized, when I was too busy to share a cherished moment with one of my kids. Not that I ever ignored them, just that I didn’t take advantage enough of those early years, when Dad was just as important to them as their school friends.
Neither one of us thought anything about it at the time, I doubt Kevin even remembers that day now. But I do, I remember always being in a rush to get something done, then on to the next thing. In fact that whole era, decades of my life in fact, raising his two older daughters and Kevin; it’s all just a blur. I suppose it’s not unusual in these times of multi-activity schedules, but it’s unforgivable to me now, to be so busy then that you couldn’t share an afternoon with your ten-year-old son; that memory will remain with me forever. What could’ve possibly been more important at the time?
He grew older, went away to school, moved out of the house, following his sisters – the realization of how empty and lonely a home can be without children. That moment is catalogued in my mind as the last invitation from an innocent boy who thought enough of his father to invite him along fishing with his friend, and a Dad too busy to even consider it. I wish I had a do-over. Ah, well, life moves on, doesn’t it. C’est la vie.