The last time

I walk my dog every morning. This morning I saw a man walking up the street towards me, while his young son skipped and played in front of him on the way to school. He reminded me of another man I used to see often. As he left his house to go to work, his little girl would bellow, “BYE!” from the balcony. The dad would call out “Bye!” back to her, and then she would call out again, “Bye!” and he’d respond “Bye!” and so it would carry on as he walked off down the footpath. “BYE!” “Bye! “BYE!” “Bye!” back and forth. Delightful. But I haven’t seen that happen for a year or more. One morning was the last morning that happened. I wonder if the dad realised that. He probably didn’t.

The guy walking with his son was getting closer to me and I thought about my own three kids. My youngest moved out not so long ago and the 27-year-long chapter of having kids at home came to a close. Over in a flash. There was a last time I walked each of them to school. There was a last time I read a bed time story. A last time when one of them would want to hop into bed with us.  At the time those events probably seemed like chores and inconveniences. They don’t seem like that now.

So I stopped the guy and said. “Excuse me. I just wanted to say, these are the good old days. One day you’ll only have a dog to walk up the street. Store it up.” He laughed! Then he looked serious and said, “Thank you very much.” Maybe he will remember a strange old guy with a dog. But I really hope he remembers now, with his boy, before it all goes. I hope he drives these times deep into his safest store of memories, and takes pictures and writes a diary. Parenting really is the big gig. Treasure it.