Put your family first

December 16, 2005

As holiday preparations and your practice intrude on your time with loved ones, keep this doctor's words in mind.

During a recent dinner conversation at the retirement home I now live in, I mentioned to some friends that the happiest days of my life were when my wife and I went skiing with the kids.

"You were lucky," responded one of my dinner companions, a widower like me who'd practiced in the same city that I had. "I never had the time. I was always too busy."

"Too busy!" I thought. "How sad to make one's practice the first priority, relegating personal and family life to a secondary tier."

My friend's children, in contrast, rarely visit him. "They're too busy," he often tells me. "They have their own lives."

True enough. Young people must work hard, especially these days, to develop their own lives and careers. And my friend's two sons, both lawyers and both prominent in the New York City business community, are no exceptions. But if parents instill family solidarity and love early on, children aren't likely to abandon their parents in their final years.

So don't neglect those special moments with family-the kind of moments I've tried to capture in a poem.

Piano Recital

Go listen to the music that you may never hear againAs your lovely daughter plays an etude by Chopin.Cancel all appointments, make it a family callNext Thursday at six-thirty in the old Masonic Hall.

Your child has been practicing so very long this yearAnd you can bring her joy now, but only if you’re near.Just lock up your desk, let others take the phone.You must be there at half-past six-don’t let her feel alone.

Years later, when you’re older, you’ll come to comprehendIt’s special times like this that matter in the end.So sit quietly and listen. Wait till she takes her bow.Then applaud and applaud-the right time is now.

Never be so busy that you miss that one-time chanceTo get to your child’s recital or join her wedding dance.The joy of the being there makes memories that last.It’s celebrations like this that can never be surpassed.