They used to have fun. A lot.
I remember witnessing those two men dressed like women and dancing in front of more than a hundred people in some random party.
I remember them smiling, laughing, making jokes. I remember them enjoying life.
That’s only a memory. That doesn’t happen anymore.
And that’s really sad.
I wish my dad could be happier.
Here’s how a phrase from my dad’s best friend at a normal dinner made me realise about how important it is to enjoy life. And not to be like my dad.
My dad and his friend
My dad comes from a small town in the north of Argentina. So does his friend.
Life took booth of them so the south of the country in times in which moving there and moving to the middle of nowhere was exactly the same thing. Those rich towns were home to people from other parts of the country who, after job opportunities, left all behind.
In those times my dad had to go to a public phone to talk to his mother and explain her that he was not dying. “Yes, mum, there’s electricity and water here”. He had a job, hi was with my mum, he was meeting new people. Everything was ok.
My dad’s friend was in the same situation.
I don’t know exactly how but they met. They started to play tennis together, to have those typical Argentinian barbecues and to make a nice group of friends that exists even today, after almost 30 years.
Oh, I forgot. And they used to have fun.
“Hello, daddy, this is me”
I came to this world 23 years ago. I think my brain started to create memories when it was 5 years old.
I remember we all used to meet every Sunday. Sometimes at our place, sometimes at somebody else’s place. Sometimes we went to the park to have a barbecue or to the beach to spend the day together.
But you know what was the best thing? Those spontaneous plans. It didn’t matter whether it was 10 p.m., my father would call his friend. “Hey, the weather is gonna be nice tomorrow, let’s go to [insert name of random place that is more than 15 kilometres away]”. The answer was yes, always. Then we started to prepare the grill, the beef, the chairs, the tables, the pets, some games, a football ball. We were ready to go the next morning.
Oh that was great. Yes, it was great. At that time I was a little child, so I may get bored easily or wanted to go home and play with my own friends. But now retrospective makes me realise how beautiful those things were.
And there’s even more. They loved making jokes. It may sound childish, but I love jokes. Being the soul of the parties, prepare surprises for your friends, laugh all night long. They used to spend entire days at tennis tournaments and conclude it with amazing parties in which all the guests knew who they were and how funny and kind those two guys were.
That’s all gone.
“Why did you change, dad?”
Things started to get better for my dad. But worse at the same time.
Both my dad and my mum had really god jobs. They owned a pharmacy that worked really well, but they would spend more than 10 hours every day at that place.
They would come home really tired at midday, have lunch, take a quick nap and go back to work at 4 or 5 to come back at 10 or 11, have dinner and go to bed.
I would see my dad only one hour a day.
Some days I wouldn’t see him at all.
By the time he was back, I was already in bed. He liked to give me a good-night kiss on the forehead.
Once a week, my dad had to do night shifts. He was the owner and his own employee, so he had to go to work that day, then spent the night there and then the rest of the following day working.
He was destroyed.
Then he decided to open his own personal business. He loves wine, and he became a rep. He would travel to the cities 60 kilometres around at least once a week. He also used to upload and download boxes. And he also opened a little wine shop. At the same time he had the pharmacy.
Free time? That didn’t exist to him.
Barbecues weren’t the same
You can imagine that, with all this going on, my dad had no time for sports, parties and trips.
He was doing really well at his job, money was not an issue. But you can’t buy time, can you?
Apart from a special event like a birthday or a wedding, my dad and his friends would meet only once a week now. For some countries that might sound normal, but for Argentina and specially for a small town like mine that’s too little.
A barbecue every Sunday. And that was it.
“If they met only once a week, I guess they tried to make the most out of it”, you may think. But they didn’t. Or at least he didn’t.
My dad used to complain about politicians, the society, old friends that became enemies because of debts or bad behaviours. All negative stuff that only made him angry and turned every meal into a boring and sad monologue.
At that time, I was old enough to realise how embarrassing all this was.
The phrase that opened my (and his) eyes
That one was a normal barbecue. Four couples with kids, like every single Sunday.
I can’t remember exactly when it happened nor what we were talking about. But suddenly, interrupting another boring dad’s monologue, his friend stopped him and talked.
You used to be happy. I remember the good times and you were happy. You’ve lost all that. Now you are angry all the time. And that’s really sad.
He said that in front of everyone. He, who’s been his friend for 30 years and with whom he had lived maybe the funniest moments in his life.
But that was the truth. And everybody agreed just with the look.
Those were really simple words. But powerful ones.
My dad came up with a banal answer, like most of us would have done, and the conversation went on normally.
But I couldn’t stop thinking.
Why was my dad like that? What had happened to him? Was it his fault?
It was really sad to see him everyday walking through the door arguing about something, with a long face and without energy. Was it to late to change all that?
Thinking about myself
I’m going to be selfish for a couple of paragraphs. And I want you to do the same.
Let’s stop thinking about my dad and think about ourselves.
What can I learn from all this?
I don’t want the same life as my dad, that’s for sure. I don’t want to spend more than 20 years working 10 hours a day and having no time at all to enjoy life.
Even if I had a lot of money, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing something I don’t enjoy.
I don’t want to had a sad face. I don’t want to transmit sadness to others. I don’t want to be pointed at the angry man. I don’t want to look back and realise I haven’t enjoyed life.
But I do want to live those funny moments they used to have. I do want to enjoy life like they did during those first years. I want to go to parties, play sports, make trips, laugh, smile, dance, jump.
I know what I want and I know what I don’t want. Without realising, my dad and my dad’s friend have taught me a priceless lesson.
And I want you to do the same. Just have fun. Laugh! You know how important that is? Just make jokes, carry a big smile everywhere you go. Don’t let your job or others ruin your life. Try to resist and build a shield around your soul.
You don’t what to be like my dad. You don’t want to disappoint your son.
He wasted 20 years of his life. You realise how bad that is? Wasting 20 years…
Here’s the second step
Now my dad is the happiest person in the world.
He sold the pharmacy and his wine business is going so well that he works less and earns more.
He started piano and drums lessons. He plays football twice a week. He has dinner with friends not only on Sundays, but in the middle of the week, too.
He goes to events, relaxes, has a lot of hobbies. He still think politicians are the worst thing that happened to this planet, but he doesn’t talk about it at the table.
He is happy because his son moved from his hometown, found a job and is happy.
He has a nice home, a nice wife, a nice family and good friends.
I’m not sure whether that phrase was the reason for him to change. But I’m sure that phrase did make me think.
And now that I’ve seen the bad and the good version of my dad I know which one I want to be.
Thanks dad, thanks dad’s friend. I hope to find you next time in the middle of a party dressed up like women and dancing weird songs.