I was on my way home from work one night when I saw something catch my eye. I wasn't sure what it was at first so I pulled over alongside the road to get a better look. There on the ground, among the tall grass and weeds, I saw a small tattered umbrella. It looked as if it might possibly be a child's umbrella due to its size and style. It was almost see through, with la water drop pattern through it, and a light blue trim. Tiny cartoon fish were scattered throughout the design as well. The handle was blue like the trim, though a piece of it was broken off. One side of the plastic was torn and the metal rods inside were bent or broken. It's a shame, I thought to myself as I pulled away, leaving the umbrella undisturbed on the ground, some poor child has lost his or her umbrella. I shrugged it off and continued on my way, I had things on my mind, concerns about money, work, my children, things that most adults worry about. I didn't have the time to be concerned over something as trivial as an umbrella, after all, how often does one have the opportunity to make use of one?
Just as the last thought had crossed my mind, a single drop of rain fell and hit my windshield. I looked up through the glass at the darkening sky and watched as another drop fell, and then another. Soon it was raining so hard that it became necessary for me to turn on my wipers. The rain beat and splashed against my car more violently now and as it did I started to think about the broken umbrella once more. Now, some poor child was without his or her umbrella when it would have become very useful to them to have it. I wondered where that child was now; at home perhaps, maybe at school or at a friend’s house. I pictured them standing by the window or at the door watching the rain pour down and sadly wondering what ever happened to their little umbrella.
My thoughts were then transferred to my own children and I suddenly wondered if either of my sons had an umbrella. It surprised me that I was unaware of something so simple but at the moment it seemed to be something very important, shouldn't they have an umbrella if they needed one? When it's cold my wife and I would buy them coats, hats, gloves, and boots. In the summer we would put sun block on them to keep them from being burned so why would we not buy them each an umbrella to use on rainy days such as this? I sighed heavily at this thought and in that instant my heart sank. I realized just then that there were a lot of things I didn't know about my children. I always took for granted that their mother would make sure they were equipped with everything that was needed, my purpose was to make sure there was money in the account. That was my job as the father, to go to work, provide for my family and make sure the bills were paid, and I served my purpose well. I went to work each morning and returned in the evening. My wife would be busy in the kitchen, the kids would be playing or working on their school work and I would retire to the living room to relax after a hard day. I started to wonder though, when was the last time that I had asked either of my boys how their day was, or asked them if they needed help with their home work. When was the last time I took them fishing or offered to play ball in the yard? My life had become so wrapped up in work and financial issues, paying bills, upkeep on the vehicles, and other things that seemed to fall into the category of "dad's duties" that I think I honestly forgot to act like a dad.
My boys were growing up so fast and it occurred to me that there was so much about them that I really didn't know, so many mile stones in their lives that I have missed. I've missed so many important moments like first steps, and first words. I didn't know their favorite colors, or the names of their favorite toys. I couldn't recall the last time either of them had lost a tooth, and I couldn't even remember the last time I soothed a fever or kissed a scraped knee. Their mother took care of all those things as I sat in my recliner and became lost in some unimportant television program that I had probably seen a dozen times before. I had lost touch with my children and that really worried me. Soon they would be in high school, they would start driving, then they would be off to college, eventually get married and have families of their own and I suddenly began to wonder, when that time came, how important would I be to them? When I became an old man, retired and nearing the final stages of my life, when I finally had time to get to know my children and grandchildren, would my children have time for me?
I pulled my car up to a stop sign and sat there a moment as I reflected on all of this. I was close to my house now; it was just down the road a ways. I could pull into the garage, turn off the car, and then assume my place in the old recliner that had for so many years become a source of comfort for me. My boys wouldn't think anything of it, they were used to it, and my wife would watch me walk silently past her, we rarely spoke these days about anything other than what needs fixed and what bills are due. Life could go on the same as it has every night for as long as I can remember and nothing would change, or, I could turn right.
The line of cars behind me began to honk angrily as they waited for me to make up my mind. It wasn't a hard decision to make. I put on my blinker and turned my car to the right, going down a side road that I have taken a hundred times before in my life. Today it seemed different though, I wasn't going for milk or toilet paper. I wasn't picking up a pack of cigarettes or going for a case of beer. I pulled the car into the parking lot, got out and walked to the front of the store, a store I knew well. I went inside and looked to the left and there I saw what I had come for, hanging on a rack between the soda pop and potato chips were the umbrellas. The rain outside had since stopped but I knew that the rain would come again someday; and when it did I wouldn't wonder if my boys had umbrellas, I would know.
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