The boy’s mother was surprised to see the man cry as he watched his own daughter play and marveled at his patience. But his story would break her heart. Life passes by so fast, and sometimes in our rush, we lose sight of what really matters. We forget to live each moment. Gail Parsons was sitting on a park bench watching her five-year-old play and looking at her watch impatiently.
She had so much to do. It was Saturday, and she still had to make dinner for the family, and she wanted to get ahead on her new project, the project that might just put her career on The Fast Track. “David,” she called, “it’s time to go home.” But David ignored her and ran around to climb up the ladder to have another turn on the slide. “Oh,” she cried crossly, “I just don’t have time for this.
The man next to her asked, “Is that your son?” Gail had seen the man at the park before with a child around David’s age. She’d always thought he was a bit strange, the way he watched his child with tears in his eyes, strange and obsessive. But she answered him politely, “Yes, he’s a sweetheart, but sometimes he tries my patience. Don’t let opportunities pass you by.
You may not get a second chance.” Just then, the little man’s daughter drove by on a pink bike and rang her bell and waved at him. The man raised his hand and waved back, and Gail saw that there were tears running down his face again. “Is that your daughter?” Gail asked.
“She’s so pretty.” The man wiped his cheeks and smiled, “Yes, that’s my Emilia.” He raised his hand and waved, “Emilia, sweetheart, it’s time to go home. Mommy’s waiting.” Emilia kept pedaling with her fat little legs and pouted, “Please, Daddy, just five more minutes.
And he nodded and replied, “Alright, my love, just five more minutes.” Emilia grinned and pedaled faster, her pigtails flying. Gail sighed, “My David is the same. It’s always another five minutes. Honestly, I can’t wait for him to be more independent.
The man looked away, “Is that so? I want to enjoy every second of my Emily’s childhood. I keep praying she won’t grow up too fast so she’ll need me.” “Oh,” Gail said, “but I have so much on my plate, and now my career is starting to take off. I should be home making notes for my new project and not here in the park watching David polish the slide with his bottom.
The man turned to face Gail. He was in his late 30s, but there were deep lines of suffering scored around his mouth and sadness in his eyes. “I used to think as you do,” he said softly, “but life taught me my lesson. Just then, little Emily sped past and called out, “Daddy, can I have another five minutes?” The man raised his hand to wave at her and smiled his agreement.
Gail sighed, “Well, I must say, I don’t have your patience.” She said and called out to David, “Come on, David, I’ve called you twice already.” The man shook his head, “I wasn’t patient either,” he confessed, “but six years ago, my son Jimmy, he was 10, he asked me to go bike riding with him. I had work to do, so I told him to go with his friends. I’d go the next time.
There was no next time. Jimmy was riding with his friends, and a driver lost control of his car. My Jimmy didn’t make it, and I never got over the idea that if I’d gone with him, things would have been different, that my boy might have lived. Then I realized how many milestone moments of Jimmy’s life I’d missed while I was busy building my brand and taking my career to the next level. So when my wife fell pregnant with Emily, I made a vow.
I promised myself that I’d be there for each precious moment, each birthday party, each bike ride. So you see, Emily thinks she has five more minutes to ride her bike. The truth is, I get five more minutes to watch her play, to enjoy my beautiful girl as I didn’t enjoy Jimmy.” Gail turned her face away so the man wouldn’t see the tears rolling down her own cheeks. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” she whispered.
Suddenly, she imagined losing David, never seeing his sweet face again, and a terrible pain struck her heart. She turned to the man and grabbed his hand, “Thank you,” she whispered, “thank you for sharing your story. You don’t know what it means to me.” The man smiled and waved at Emily, who was walking her bike over, “I’m ready to go home, Daddy,” she said, “I’m getting really hungry.” Gail watched the man and the little girl walk away with tears in her eyes, and she turned back to the slide.
There was David, zooming down the slide with his hands high in the air, shrieking with delight, “Look at me, Mommy,” he cried, “I’m getting faster and faster!” Gail waved back, “Yes, you are, go David!” Then she sat back on the bench and watched her little son run and play and slide to his heart’s content and didn’t look at her watch even once. Gail and David got home after dark, and her husband asked her what she was making for dinner. “Order some pizza,” Gail cried, “it’s David’s favorite, and we’ve just had the loveliest day ever.
From that day on, Gail never counted the time she spent with her son.