Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer. While the calendar still gives us three more weeks of the season, the heat and humidity of June and July made me wish it away long ago. I’ve been waiting patiently since February for a snowfall. I can’t wait for winter.

I probably used the term “I can’t wait” more often than I realized. “I can’t wait for the weekend,” “I can’t wait to get back to school,” “I can’t wait for …” Then, one day it all changed for me, thanks to Betty.

Betty was an older lady who worked in our department for a few hours a week. She had already retired, but returned to her former position to fill her time. One day, she overheard my innocent “I can’t wait for…” and she asked, “Why are you wishing your life away?” At her advanced age, she felt that every day that passed was one day closer to her last. To Betty, every day was equally important; equally deserving of one’s gratitude.

I had never before thought of “I can’t wait for …” in that light. I’m sure that I’m not alone.

In our excitement and anticipation of upcoming events and happenings, we tend to pay little mind to the good and simple things that are happening in the present. It’s hard for our minds not to race ahead, dreaming of that day when we can sleep in, or have a great dinner out or just enjoy a lazy afternoon with a good book. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we forget to appreciate that just waking up and breathing is a gift.

In just a few short days, the sun will rise on another Sept. 11, just as it did on that date in 2001. So many people went to work that morning 16 years ago, not realizing that their goodbye kisses would be their last. There would be no more chances to play catch in the backyard, or read a fairytale, or throw a tea party. On that day, their legacies were established, and whatever they had done in life to that point would define how they would be remembered by their loved ones.

Have you ever thought about how you would want to be remembered? Whatever that is, you have to contribute to it now. If you want to be remembered by your children as fun and playful, you have to get down on the living room floor and build fortresses out of blocks, and pitch tents made from blankets draped over tables.

The crumbs will still be on the kitchen floor waiting for you to sweep them up later. The husbands and wives, sons and daughters who lost their loved ones on that tragic day would tell you that it really doesn’t matter if the grass goes another day without being mowed.

I hope that my daughters look back fondly on their childhood and remember the fun we had catching toads, or the time that the pancake got stuck on the dining room ceiling, or the time when we saw Rene Rivera hit a grand slam at Wrigley Field. Unplanned and unrehearsed happenings like these should be the ones that “We can’t wait for …” 

Pamela Henderson is the director of development and communications at Dunebrook. To learn more about parenting and support programs at Dunebrook, call (800) 897-0007. Email Pam with parenting questions and comments at pam@dunebrook.org.

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