My father was and continues to be a significant influence in my personal and professional life. He was the most impressive individual that I’ve known, and continues to be the yardstick by which I measure my success in being a good friend, spouse and parent. I’ve referred to some of the conversations that he and I have had as “nuggets”, and had elaborated on one of those early conversations in a previous post.
My father was well aware of my passion for my work, had seen the hours that I had been keeping, and seized the opportunity to speak with me. Nearing the end of our conversation, he asked, “On your deathbed, what would your single biggest regret be? Could it be that you didn’t achieve a certain salary or job title? Could it be that you didn’t work hard enough for your employers? Or could it be that you did not spend enough time with your family?”
The importance of the advice that he had shared with me oh so long ago was lost until life intervened (as it often does), and helped reinforce dad’s wisdom.
Many years ago, my son was 10 months old, and my wife was pregnant with our second and third children – twin girls. At the time, I was working at an assembly plant that produced the flagship vehicles for my employer. We were in the midst of launching a new vehicle; A vehicle that was the toast of the North American auto show. The press was in love with the vehicle, dealerships were counting the days until their units arrived, and thousands of customers had placed deposits on vehicles that they had never seen.
The process of bringing a new vehicle to market is akin to herding cats (an overused analogy, I know). The culmination of two years of vehicle development is the coordination of 100 different suppliers to complete their activities and deliver their contribution to the vehicle at the exact same moment. The task of starting production of the Prowler, was compounded by the fact that we were installing a new assembly line from scratch. As you can imagine, the entire team experienced were exhausting days for the entire team.
After a successful production launch, work continued at the manufacturing plant to stabilize the daily build. I had noticed that I had not been feeling “right” for 3 or 4 consecutive weeks… I was experiencing pain in my abdomen that I attributed to an ulcer because of the stress at work. My personal diagnosis was rejected by the doctor early one morning in the emergency room – my gall bladder was hemorrhaging and required immediate surgery. The result was an eight inch scar where the doctors had opened me up and removed the unruly organ.
Recovery was estimated at four weeks and was accompanied by instructions to lift no more than 15 pounds during the first two weeks. For the first week, I was able to do little more than sit in the recliner and hold my infant son. Immediately, it became clear that the boy was not comfortable when I was holding him… My body and they way that I held him did not feel the same as his mother. He was not happy, and did not relate to me at all… My own child did not know who I was and freely (and loudly) voiced his objections. My father’s question repeated over and over in my head.
This was one of the few times that in my life that I can remember that moment of realization to change. And thanks to a nugget, it would be the catalyst that would re-define my future relationships. Eighteen years later, I can confirm that the boy did become accustomed to (and still enjoys) being held by his father.
Go and be intentional.