As I paid for our round of golf, Charlie sat down on a bench a little ways away.
When I returned a couple minutes later, he was examining a plaque affixed to the bench.
“What’s this?” he asked.
The plaque read, “In memory of…” then listed a man’s name and his years of birth and death.
“It’s a memorial bench,” I explained. “The man’s friends or family put the bench here to always remember him. He probably loved playing golf here.”
I picked up our clubs, and we made our way to the first tee. Halfway there, Charlie stopped and said, “When you die, I’m going to build you a memorial fountain. Then when Mommy’s dies, I’ll build her a fountain right next to yours, since you were married. And when people throw pennies into the fountain, you can grant them wishes.”
I had the following thoughts, in the following order:
- What a sweet little boy.
- Why is Charlie already contemplating my death?
- Why is he so sure that I’ll die first?
- Grant wishes? Is he assigning me a job in the afterlife?
Then the big one hit me. The hard one.
I’m never getting that fountain.
As children, we are so filled of dreams, and so many of them are realistic, rationale, and appealing even as we get older. Yet so often, we fail to follow through. A fountain is not an unreasonable or unrealistic dream. By the time Charlie is an adult, he will be perfectly capable of erecting a fountain in memory of his dead father.
But he almost certainly won’t. Even if he remembers the moment we shared, he probably won’t.
When I was a boy, I told myself that when I became an adult, I would drive a Toyota 4×4. I would vacation in Hawaii and the Grand Canyon, because that was where the Brady Bunch vacationed. I would stock my shelves with the same kind of fruit cocktail that I only ever ate on Christmas morning at my grandparents’ home. I would build myself an in-ground pool.
All of those things are possible today. Some cost more money than others, but realistically, I could make all of those things possible, and here’s the thing:
I still want every one of those things. Those dreams didn’t die. I just haven’t gotten around to doing any of them yet.
This is what happens so often when we grow up. The dreams and desires of our youth don’t die. They simply get pushed aside for more practical needs.
When I was a boy, I swore that I would have ice cream for breakfast every single day. Not a realistic dream, admittedly, but twice per year, usually in the late spring or early summer, I buy a quart of Ben & Jerrie’s ice cream, and over the course of two days, I eat it for breakfast.
Usually at work, where I can simultaneously make my colleagues jealous.
I do this because ice cream for breakfast is amazing. I do this to fulfill a childhood commitment. I do this to remind myself that I still have childhood dreams to pursue, and I should not forget any of them.
But the truth is that I probably will. At least a couple.
I suspect the same fate will befall my fountain. Even if Charlie remembers this dream when he is older, life will probably get in the way. Side by side memorial fountains for dead parents might seem a little silly, a little frivolous, or other needs will simply crowd his time and space.
He will probably still think of adjacent fountains as a lovely idea, but maybe not a realistic reality.
Now excuse me while I add fruit cocktail to the shopping list.
Some dream are much easier than others, so I’m knocking that one off the list.