March 3, 2016
Yesterday on my commute home from work I listened to an account of horror in World War II. I listened to Jocko Podcast 12, and the first half was taken up with discussing The Forgotten Highlander by Alistair Urquhart.
I don’t want to attempt to go over all the horrors discussed in the podcast. Alistair Urquhart was a prisoner of war in the far east in WWII, actually in the camp which build the Bridge over the river Kwai. The sorts of conditions, disease, beatings, torture, abuse, literal insanity, and hopelessness of their situation was vividly conveyed.
More than once I asked myself why I was still listening. It was a true story, of course. An important story. But a horrific one, end-to-end filled with things I didn’t particularly want to think about.
But I did keep listening. About halfway through, I arrived home, stopped the podcast and stepped out of the car.
My front door was already open, and my five year old was standing there with an enormous smile on his face and waving at me, and shouting “Daddy, daddy!” in a way that can only be described as joy, the sort only a five year old greeting his dad after work can convey. It was a complete, stark, contrast to the horrors I’d just been listening to.
This is going to sound corny, and that’s fine.
But I was suddenly overwhelmed. After listening to the account of the complete lack of freedom, the complete horror of the POWs in that WWII camp, being greeted by a joyful five year old who wanted nothing more than me to come on into the house and wrestle or play with LEGO or do literally anything with him filled me with enormous gratitude. I’m pretty sure I almost had tears come to my eyes.
Fast forward to this morning. It was just before five AM, and I realized my other son, two years old, was awake, had left his room and had wandered into my room. I wanted to be upset, for several reasons: I realized I had slept past my 4:30AM alarm, and I was mad at myself. I realized it was extremely unlikely the two year old would get back to sleep, which meant that if I did get up I would not really get my time like I usually did. I knew the easiest way for the two year old to get back to sleep would be if I stayed in bed and simply lay down with him until he went to sleep, which again kept me from getting up, working out, reading, or writing.
For some reason, I was able to suddenly mentally step back. I remembered the account of horror I had been thinking of the day before. And I suddenly didn’t care that for this one day, I had slept in for twenty-five minutes. I didn’t care that my two year old was sleeping beside me and that I had to stay in bed yet longer, because that moment, in my house, in my bed, with my son, with my family around me, was a gift.