Each Moment Is, and Always Has Been, a Gift

I knew that drop off day last Thursday would be busy and unpredictable, so I took Number One Son out to lunch at Little Rosie’s on Wednesday to serve up a little fatherly wisdom along with some steak fajitas, chips and gaucomole on the side. So far so good: no apparent E. coli poisoning.

I started off by saying that if I were to tell him everything that I know that he needed to know as a college freshman starting out, that I would flat-out fry his brain. Instead, I promised to keep it simple.

First, I wanted him to know how I “backended” into my career as an optometrist, having never even thought about that profession during college, but instead seeking it out after my first choice of clinical psychology “didn’t work out.” I told him that it’s certainly necessary to have plans, goals and dreams, but to be ready for unexpected twists and turns in the road which will make the trip more interesting and may lead to unexpected destinations. The important thing, I said, is to accomplish your daily tasks with excellence and careful attention (as if unto the Lord himself) and that a track record of conscientious effort will open up opportunities–even ones that didn’t at first seem apparent.

Next, I wanted to discuss a book that we had both recently read: Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons. The novel tells the story of Charlotte, an outstanding student who enters a prestigious university after a sheltered life in the backwoods of North Carolina. Charlotte is eager to leave her rustic past behind and to experience the transcendent “life of the mind.” Instead, she discovers a campus that is for the most part given over to hedonistic rather than academic pursuits, and that ultimately, she is not as far above the fray as she first thought.

We talked about the eroding power of peer pressure and how it can cloud even the best of judgments in the heat of battle. The desire for social approval and status is (and this is a common theme in nearly all of Wolfe’s books) perhaps the most powerful force in the human psyche, and we talked further about how the Christian faith is often a call to stand apart from, and at times in opposition to, the relentless tug of self-gratification.

Finally, I wanted him to know about the first time that I met him and truly knew who he was. I told him about a week-long trip that his mother took in the spring of 1988 during the latter part of my second year of optometry school. I missed her greatly, and when she returned, we had a wonderful homecoming celebration, the kind where good sense, fine planning and appropriate caution get tossed out the window like a piece of charred furniture after an apartment fire (which, in some respects, it was). He smiled as I told him how I sat down in front of a stack of books about a month later, opened up a letter that had been left on top of my pathology book, and read the following words: Guess what, my love? I’m going to have your baby!

I told him about how in those early days, it was difficult to truly see him as my child, that he felt instead more like an “it,” and about how that suddenly changed when his mother awoke one morning bleeding. I told him that it was at that moment that I knew who he was–my child–and that I began to grieve at the possibility that we might lose him. I told him about how we rushed to the doctor’s office that morning–crying and praying all along the way–and the utter relief and joy at the touch of the ultrasound probe which revealed him safely ensconced in his mother’s womb, his heart pounding away a mile a minute.

I went on to tell him about the first time that we took him to church and how I was putting him in his ultra-safe car seat and accidentally knocked his soft little noggin against the back door (it took several days for that particular dent to work its way out). I told him that, really, if he can survive 18 years with parents like us, that college would probably be a walk in the park.

I’m glad I said all that, because Thursday really was a blur–but a pleasant one. There was no mass confusion outside the dorm–we pulled right up to the curb and his relatively small pile was inside his room within 15 minutes. As God would will it, we immediately ran into an old optometry classmate and his wife whose son was born only a few months after Number One and who is also a freshman at Bama. We had a wonderful lunch together (the food was hot and tasty and the wait minimal), and the two “optometry school babies” chatted away excitedly at another table, a second-generation friendship forming before our very eyes.

Number One let Eyegal arrange some of his stuff, but he soon let us know that he would do the rest on his own time and in his own way and that it was time for us to leave. A few hugs ensued, along with some increasingly moist eyes–but no high drama. He stuck out his hand to me, but I brushed it aside and gave him a hug instead. I stood back and looked at him, shook my head and shrugged my shoulders, and offered up the always appropriate, all-purpose phrase: Roll Tide.

On Saturday evening, we were sitting at a soccer field in Birmingham waiting for Number Three’s match to begin when Number One called and told us that he had been involved in a car accident only a few moments before. He told us that someone had run a red light and hit the passenger side of his Passat, but that he and his roommate, and the young lady who hit them, were all okay.

We walked him through some of the things he should do, and we told him that if you’re going to have bad luck that this was the very best kind you could possibly have (the kind that everybody walks away from) and not to worry too much or let it ruin his first week in school. I remembered about how I had chosen the Passat for him after reading about its stellar side-impact safety ratings and even felt just a little bit smart.

But mostly I felt relieved and thankful–just like another moment 19 years before. Eyegal and I looked at each other and shook our heads: Can you believe that? It had been his third “close call” of the year.

And then I thought about all my close calls, and the ones that I probably had but never knew about, and I realized anew a fundamental truth that is so basic that it often goes unrecognized or gets lost in the shuffle, but in such revealing moments, is burned into the conscience with laser-like precision and clarity:

Each moment is, and always has been, a gift.

  1. That Girl

    I love this story… and because it’s true – I love it even more!

    (I’m sure the accident would’ve never happened in Auburn, AL) 🙂

  2. Donna

    Oh my….precious and few…
    sometimes the only thing worth saying is Roll Tide!

  3. Stacy

    What a great post! Left my eyes a little moist!

  4. JRB

    My first day at Harding, I ran into a guy who was wearing a t-shirt from a Christian-U, high school, Jesus camp dance party that I had attended that summer as well. As we commented on the t-shirt, we started talking and haven’t stopped. I lived with or near that guy for 4 years, and we are best friends to this day. I hope that No. 1 and the other “optometry baby” enjoy that providence as well. New brothers are hard to find after college.

  5. Stoogelover

    I enjoyed reliving this with you. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  6. mmlace

    Awww….Eyeguy! Glad to hear things went well and there was not too much drama. And I love the part about you taking the time to serve up some fatherly wisdom before he left. Wonderful thoughts that you shared with him. Seems like Number One is very blessed, indeed, to have you for a father. I hope he knows that.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    I’ve just been informed that Number One has now followed up his wreck with his first Bama parking ticket. Yes, Barney Fife has a bullet in his pocket and he means business.

    Welcome to the real world.

  8. Hal

    This truly is great stuff. I’m so thankful that you have a weblog diary that preceeds my experiences by two years. This is so helpful. Eyeguy, you’re my hero!

  9. Carl Agee

    How different your referring to family members by number than when I heard it used recently by a friend whose married lives (plural) have not been so sweet as yours.

    A group with whom I study regularly had just raised their heads from prayer when he referred to “Plaintiff Number Two”. I listened and quickly realized that he was referring to an ex-wife!

    I asked my own silent prayer immediately to thank Him for the durability of my marriage. (soon to be 44 years).

    Congratulations to us both EyeGuy. Keep writing.

  10. Mike the Eyeguy

    Hal–thanks, but be careful who you emulate. I can go from Ward Cleaver to Homer Simpson in no time flat.

    Carl–Hey there first time commenter (and long-time friend)! I used to love watching old Charlie Chan movies when I was growing up, and I think that’s where I came up with the idea of numbering my sons.

    Yes, like you, I’m thankful that I only have one wife to keep up with!

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