GETTING IT RIGHT
Every time Mitch went to Shriners Hospital he would be taken to a large closet filled with unopened toys and invited to take one home. Each toy was donated to the hospital by generous people and sponsors. The hospital wanted to give kids hope that good can happen to them despite whatever burdens they carried; an enlightened philosophy that hope is medicine, too.
On one occasion the doctor was running late so Mitch was allowed to choose his gift before his checkup. Mitch was so excited to have a toy set that included a bio-mechanical saber tooth tiger that shot plasma lasers from a mountable cannon, an amphibious airplane, two cool army guys and a pylon with a penguin on top. Mitch loved penguins so that was an added bonus. As toy sets go, this was the mother lode for Mitch – and that made my heart smile.
With very few exceptions, I took time off work to be with my wife and Mitch for these hospital visits. I love them both so dearly and I never wanted either of them to feel alone. I knew that with each visit things would be getting worse and I wanted them know where my priorities were … with them.
Mitch quickly opened his gift and wanted to play with me. I sat on the other side of the examination table and we started to have battles. Suddenly the examination table sheet became a frozen snowscape and the blue cushion, icy water. Little Mitch had me be “the guy” as he lunged his saber-tooth tiger toward me. I let him gobble me up and he giggled while I writhed in pretend pain. I had so much fun playing with my son. While I might work to make a living, these are the kind of paydays I live for.
It wouldn't be many years later that I sat on the floor by Mitchell’s bed when he was home and dying. He only had a few days of life left – but we didn't know it. As we sat on the floor, Mitch opened a long, skinny drawer under his bed that was filled with Legos and brushed his hand softly through the disassembled parts pointing out his favorite pieces. He was so weak and so tired; he leaned against me to keep upright and his breaths were shallow. He wanted to play with me but he had no energy. My heart broke for my little son who wanted to live … I mean truly live. I put my arm around him and kissed his head and then suddenly Mitch said, “I love playing with you, Dad.” Tears poured from my eyes. They pour again today.
I’m just an ordinary dad who makes a million-and-one mistakes. I wish life had do-overs, for there are many things I would do differently and better. But I never stopped trying – and for that I have a certain peace of mind.
Although I have made a million and more mistakes, sometimes I get things right. And on this day, at the hospital, and again on the floor by my son’s bed, I got it right; and those are moments of such profound value they are without price.