Here’s the funny thing about time — it’s easy enough to measure, but nearly impossible to truly calculate.
We can all add up seconds and minutes and hours, but how can we possibly calculate what really matters in life — the lives we impact, the difference we make and the time spent with the ones we love and who love us — without knowing when it’s all going to come to an end?
It’s easy to get lost in time, to lose sight of the things that will ultimately add up to the legacy we leave, as the minutes of mundane drudgery pile up throughout the course of our daily lives. Many days, we watch the clock, hoping the minutes pass with alacrity and we are able to move on to the next thing to do on our list.
My dad was always a punctual man — his U.S. Army background demanded it. He took great pride in the fact he was never late to anything — unless one of his slowpoke children was making him late — and could usually be counted on to arrive 10 minutes early to every appointment. My dad was constantly counting minutes.
He did so on a simple Timex watch — my dad was always a no-frills type, which I again attribute in large part to his beloved military service — that he wore at the end of his well-muscled forearm for many years.
I’m wearing that watch on my wrist right now because he no longer can. At 2:34 a.m. yesterday, my dad passed away. As someone who always enjoyed things taking place in an orderly fashion, I have no doubts he would have grinned at the fact the time of his passing came in an arithmetic progression. A place for everything and everything in its place, right up until the very end.
My dad’s death has had me thinking quite a bit about time the past 24 hours. I wish I could have just a little more time to spend with him. I wish I could have spent the time I did have with him a little more wisely instead of wasting so much of it worrying about petty things.
Dad was never one to waste time. He was a hard-working man — something he learned from his parents, who immigrated to the United States from China and made a life for themselves as private business owners and leaders in the Chinese community in Boise, Idaho — and would spend countless hours at work. He would pass that same work ethic on to his five children, who have done their best to instill the same in his 14 grandchildren.
But for all the time he did spend at work, those moments in time I’ll remember most about my dad are the ones he spent doing what he loved most — being with his children and grandchildren. An all-star athlete in high school — he played football, basketball and was a state champion sprinter for the Boise High School track and field team, while also pitching for his local American Legion baseball team in the summer — he coached his children through all of their youth sports endeavors.
As his children got older, he did his best to make sure he never missed one of their sporting events. So passionate was he as a fan of his children — and later, his grandchildren — that he practically became a participant in the games themselves, his deep, booming voice echoing across many fields and inside many gymnasiums, shouting out many words of encouragement and more than a few pieces of helpful advice.
While my dad spent many hours at work, when he was on vacation, every second was devoted to his family — and when we took family trips, he was going to squeeze fun and excitement out of every second. He would literally type up vacation itineraries weeks in advance of every family vacation that were planned down to the second — no historical site was going to go unseen, no ceremony unattended, no amusement park ride unridden.
We were going to have fun whether we liked it or not.
With the passage of time, however, many of those memories of family trips — perhaps not necessarily so pleasant at the time — have become my fondest childhood memories, something my siblings and I will talk about for many years to come. I guess we’ll never forget my dad in general — a good man who spent a fair amount of time demanding his kids make the most of theirs.
Rest easy, old man. I’ve forgotten the tough times, dad — but nothing will take away my memories of the good ones.
Time has a funny way of doing that, I suppose.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at dfong at civitasmedia.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong