American essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie said, ‘The question for each man to settle is not what he would do if he had the means, time, influence, and educational advantages, but what he will do with the things he has.’ My biggest challenge is what to do with my time. My influence (albeit limited) I use to good effect, likewise my education. But I’m very conscious of the fact that my time is limited and how I choose to spend what time I have is something that keeps me awake at night.
I was at the races this week with my dad. All my horses are still running; he didn’t bet at all. He went to see the regulars, those he would bump into every year at this annual meeting. He didn’t see anyone he knew. Me neither. But at least he didn’t lose any money. It was a good day, nonetheless. Yesterday he decided we’d go again today. And his reason – because we might not be around this time next year. And at 92, perhaps he has more reason than I do to suspect that this might be the case. But thankfully, he’s showing no signs of shrugging off his mortal coil just yet. Then the sun came out and mowing the grass took priority. I was just as happy.
Yesterday, we went to visit his brother over in Greystones. Coming back, we were in danger of hitting rush hour on a Friday evening. I checked and saw a couple of accidents on the M50 that added 40 minutes to our 50-minute journey. So the choice was there: go sit in traffic or take the two hours needed to go the road less travelled. I’ve had my fill of crowds and traffic and have vague memories of driving through the Sally Gap and the Wicklow Gap at various stages in my childhood as we went to visit cousins in Wicklow town, so we took that option. In another month or so, this road will be choked with tour buses. It’s a popular route with St Kevin’s Way and the Sugarloaf in the vicinity offering hikes and climbs for the fitter, more adventurous walker. We passed a handful of cars. I resisted the temptation to put the foot down and let my inner Rosemary Smith run loose. It was the first time, Boss said, that he’d been in the passenger seat driving this road, a road he’s driven hundreds of times, and he was taking the time to see it all.
There’s a lesson there for me, too. I’m a poor passenger, preferring to have control rather than to be at the mercy of another. But how much do I miss? I wonder.