Quality time! There is no better way to get it than on a road trip. For me it was a three-hour drive from Lake Worth to Orlando, with my youngest daughter at the wheel of her trusty Honda.
Interstate 95, which can take you from South Miami to as far north as the Canadian border, was wide open, with only a few container giants to watch out for. We stopped for brunch at Cracker Barrel. Their pancakes with warm maple syrup are to die for.
The country-style restaurant has a wonderful surprise-filled little shop. It is pricey but irresistible. After poking around for a pasalubong for our hosts, I found and bought a wooden sign that read: Wherever you go, there you are. They only had one, or I would have bought several to give away to a few choice friends and to hang over my own door as a reminder.
We discussed many things. She told me about her unforgettable high school years at Assumption San Lorenzo, a culture shock for a girl who grew up in “public school, USA.” We talked about her two daughters. She knows them so well. It made me wonder if I ever knew my own children that closely.
Just when she was getting into my personal business, the lady with an English accent (on our GPS) announced we had arrived at our destination. Our friends met us at their front door.
I remember visiting them many years ago in this same house. My children were very young then and were straining at the bit, eager to get to the land of fantasy called Disney World, 30 minutes away.
My days for theme parks have long been over. But I remember the excitement of getting the children there, of lining up for scary rides, of being panic-stricken thinking we had lost one child, and how two days of paying homage to Mickey, Snow White and Peter Pan could put a huge dent on our budget.
That was in the ’70s, when entrance was about $4.95 and premium rides cost a dollar. Today I don’t know how anyone can afford it. I hear it takes close to a hundred dollars just to enter, whether you get on the rides or not.
This time my visit was unrushed. We sat around and feasted on grapes, cheese and crackers, and stoked our never-ending treasure of old memories. We relived old times with lifetime friends. We pored over old photographs, a 3D wedding album by Bob’s Studio, complete with a viewer. And in an old musty box, among love notes and newspapers clippings, we found a letter I wrote in 1954. Talk about flashbacks.
Their children and grandchildren joined us for dinner. Wine bottles were uncorked. The pot roast was world class, and so was the ensalada de bacalao.
Conversation was animated. It touched on the sluggish economy and the coming US elections. Theirs is clearly a Republican household. They talked disdainfully about the dismal aftermath of the “Yes We Can” campaign that had so ignited the country only four years ago. I became wistful thinking about our own state of affairs.
Someone turned on the TV. They have a television dish to catch shows from the Philippines. The lady of the house follows “Walang Hanggan” like I do. And we are both “ASAP” fans for similar reasons.
ANC was on. There was a scene from the Senate impeachment hearings. We caught the tailend of the infamous three-hour speech. I was sick to my stomach. Fearing I would lose my supper, I begged for someone to switch to the cartoon channel, much to the delight of the grandkids.
One of the daughters is an online writer. She told me about her newfound passion discovered only after spending many years of her life working with architects, sometimes 16 hours a day.
Today she looks back on that time of her life with regret. “I was very successful, an asset, and great at what I did. But I lost precious time with my children. I missed their childhood. Before I knew it, they were all grown up and out of the house. No one can give me back that time. All the success was not worth it.”
Surely she didn’t mean for this to happen. But it did. One works hard just to make a better life for the family. Parents want a secure future for their children. Don’t they?
But like many working moms around the world, maybe she had to choose between a board meeting and her son’s baseball game. Perhaps she had to miss a PTA conference because of an out-of-town business commitment. Sometimes it is an exhausted parent who oversleeps and misses her first-grader’s “awards day.”
No biggie? This may not be a tragedy in the corporate world. But everybody else had his mom there. Was that your son or daughter who sat by the window waiting for you? And you didn’t show up? You couldn’t?
We work hard to excel and to succeed. Too late we realize that our priorities are skewed. We are so intent on our goals that we forget where our hearts belong.
What a shame to have invested so much of yourself in a job or a career, only to find out that at the end, it was not worth it. The same happens with a relationship.
We cannot fast-forward time to see how it will all turn out. Often there are warning signs. But we proceed anyway, as if we were deaf and blind. Once in a while, older and wiser heads try to tell us. But do we listen?
You pour yourself into your job. Your career finally takes off. And just when you think everything is perfect, your children kick dust in your face as they leave home, and you have no idea where they are going and don’t even know why. Their baby footsteps become mere echoes in your empty house.
The love of your life has packed up and gone. What do you do with all the years of caring? Can anyone tell you now that it is better to have loved and lost? How is it better, pray tell?
What do you say to a disillusioned and despondent OFW when he comes home to a broken family? Was his sacrifice worth the pain?
So, is it wrong to be totally committed to your pursuit of success? Maybe the right question is: What are we willing to give up for it? There is always a price to pay.
American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau wrote: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”