A Conversation of a Lifetime
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
You never know when the particular experience you’re having will be your last. The only thing you can be certain of is that there will be a last one.
This is a particularly personal post that risks being too personal perhaps. But it is its poignancy that compels me to share. So here goes.
It was around 8 pm on Saturday. I had just finished dinner with my wife, our kids, and her family in our rented home in Lake Tahoe, the last evening of a weeklong stay. This was, I believe, our thirtieth year staying in this particular location, an annual tradition that began when I was dating my wife in college. I left the dinner table and went out on the large wooden deck that overlooked the lake. The sun had just set, and a peacefulness had settled over the wooded area where we were staying. The distinctive sounds of the native, nocturnal animals were the only thing punctuating the silence of the night. My 80-year-old father-in-law was sitting on the deck taking in the view. “I can never get tired of this view,” he remarked. I nodded and sat down quietly a few feet away and began to read. As he typically does, my father-in-law began to periodically ask me questions about one of my kids or my work or some other seemingly mundane matter. As I habitually do, I looked up from my book and offered a curt response, indicating a desire to return to the book I was enjoying. This repeated itself for about ten minutes.
And then something hit me. Here I was, in one of the most beautiful places in the world, sitting next to the father of my wife, and it was as if I could have been anywhere. At that moment, I realized that this could be the very last time I would have the opportunity to enjoy his company one on one. This was true not because of his age, but mostly because any moment, no matter how mundane or profound, may be my last. I stood up as if shocked by an electric current and walked over to him, suddenly anxious to soak in every last second that remained. Everything about me changed in that instance. I was present, smiling, looking straight into his eyes. I pulled my chair closer to him and began to engage in a real conversation. One in which I was committed to savoring every moment of the experience. We only talked for about fifteen minutes, but it seemed as if we had spoken for at least an hour. As we were beginning to retire for the evening, I asked him if we could take a picture together.
I hope and trust my father-in-law and I will have many more opportunities to be sitting on a deck overlooking a lake together. But here’s the important thing. You never know when the particular experience you’re having will be your last. The only thing you can be certain of is that there will be a last one. When I put my head on the pillow that Saturday evening, I did so knowing that I didn’t miss any minute of that conversation. And I’m committed to doing so from this day forward.