It’s a question. The question, really. It’s also an imperative statement reminding you to recognize and acknowledge something you ought to appreciate in the moment.
I’m thinking about what’s important. Do you know?
These things we write. These stories we tell. This used to seem important. It might have been, sometimes. I’m not sure anymore.
Now, on a bright Sunday afternoon, I sit on the couch with a football game on TV and watch my older son skip in and out of the house. He’s outside in the November sunshine playing with friends. He’s inside getting a cold drink of water.
I watch him from the couch. He comes in through the sliding glass door and reaches up on tiptoe to retrieve a plastic cup out of the cabinet. He is not tall enough yet for this act to be performed casually. It takes effort, this reaching up. On tiptoe, nothing is easy.
He gets the plastic cup and opens the refrigerator. I hear filtered water pour into the cup.
I watch him, and he sees me watching him. I don’t say a word while he finishes drinking his water. He puts the cup on the kitchen table and, before he heads back outside, he walks with a purpose across the family room toward me.
He grabs me in a hug and kisses me on top of my head. He kisses me again, then pats me on the head.
“I love you, dad,” he says.
“I love you too, bud,” I say.
And just like that, he’s back outside running in the sun, playing soccer with his friends in our back yard.
Was that important? Did it matter?
Do you care? Probably not. Nor should you. It’s my life. It’s my memory. You have your own.
Of course I care. It was one significant exchange during a languid weekend that will be otherwise remembered, if it is remembered at all, for a visit by my wife’s sister from Massachusetts. The sisters spent Saturday night away while the boys and I hung out and watched Shrek.
Did that matter just now when you read the title of the movie we watched Saturday night? Was that important?
It was a detail, a small dash of color. I might have said we watched “something” on TV, or we played board games. Maybe we went to the beach and lit a bonfire and drank Jack Daniels all night while surf fishing for the giant hammerhead shark that patrols the Gulf of Mexico just off Tampa Bay. Maybe that was someone else, or us in the future. Or maybe it never happened and never will happen.
Does it matter?
Right now, my wife and two sons are hunched over a toy circuit board on the family room floor. The TV is turned on — halftime of a Carolina basketball game. It’s muted. As I tap away at a blog post on my laptop, they fiddle with the circuits. A doorbell, a Morse code signal box.
“We got this light working,” she says. “How come nothing else is working, though?”
They’ll figure it out.
But so what if they don’t?
Does it matter?
I feel like whatever it is, I can almost reach it. It’s right there on the lowest shelf in the cabinet. All I need to do is reach a bit higher. I’ll get it if I keep reaching. Just a little farther.
And you’re watching. I see you watching. But I’m reaching, up on tiptoe, where nothing is easy. When I find it, I’ll let it soak in for a good, long time. I won’t let it go until I know the answer. And then I’ll come to you, if you’re still watching, and I’ll grab you in a hug.
I’ll kiss you on top of your head and kiss you again. Then I’ll go outside to run in the sun, where nothing matters but the grass and the trees and the laughter of children under the bright, blue sky.