My dad is 80 and has lived a very full and successful life as a scientist and University Lecturer. But like many kids, until recently I had not had many conversations with my dad about his hopes and dreams for his life when he was growing up. It is funny how we assume our parents spring fully grown and are happy with their lot in life.
Last week while we were waiting for dad to head in for another round of heart surgery, we spent a few quiet hours in conversation. This time we talked about what he had dreamed he would be when he grew up – a journalist it turns out. And why he didn’t follow his dream and moved into science instead.
We talked about what his experience of school was like – not particularly a great experience thanks to some very abusive Christian Brothers. We also talked about his relationships – what worked and what didn’t.
Dad is a brilliant story teller, and many were the moments when I had tears in my eyes from laughing at tales of Claude the lab lion who used to tackle dad around the ankles as he walked past; and his university pranks that these days would put him behind bars.
I also learnt of the untold story of how my grandfather, who was head of one of the RAAF Airforce bases, thought they were sinking a midget sub off the coast of NSW during the war – only to discover they had sunk a very surprised whale.
But the questions were not all one way. The biggest question he asked was if we had our time over again, knowing what we know now, what job would we do now? What career would we follow? What would we do differently?
These are brilliant questions, and ones we forget to ask ourselves as we travel through life. Life passes so swiftly – in a blink of an eye, it is gone. We need to make sure that we live every moment to the maximum – that we are following the paths of our heart.
Dad is due for another round of more complex heart surgery in 5 weeks time, and you can be sure that there will be many more questions and quiet discussions in the interim. I am truly valuing his insights and wisdom (and humour).
So what would you answer? Would you choose the same job? What would you do differently if you had another go at life? What would it take for you to do this now?