DEAR ABBY: This is for "Sally in Fort Collins, Colo.," who is trying to convince her husband to take some time off from their plumbing business to spend with the family.
I, too, used to work a lot of hours, sometimes working two jobs just to have that "extra cash." It seemed important to make sure my kids had the best clothes, toys, went to the best schools –- whatever. I wanted to drive a nicer car, have a nicer house, etc. There was always tomorrow for field trips or the park. We could wait until next year to take that family vacation.
Now there is no tomorrow. My son died last year. He was only 14. I would live in a cardboard box for the rest of my life to be able to go to a football game or a concert with him. I would take the bus every day if it meant we could hit golf balls in the back yard again.
Sally should tell her husband to think long and hard about what is really important. Things are replaceable. Time is not. -- FILLED WITH REGRET, CHATTANOOGA, TENN.
DEAR FILLED WITH REGRET: Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your son. I hope Sally shows your letter to her husband. I can't imagine a more powerful motivator. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I also owned a plumbing company and worked long and hard to be successful. However, we made our kids and our marriage a priority. Kids grow up quickly, and you can lose sight of what's important in your marriage if you don't remember what you're working for in the first place.
My husband and I made a date once a month -– just the two of us. We also made sure we spent quality time with our kids.
I want Sally to show this letter to her husband. My hardworking, healthy-as-a-horse husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer and was dead eight months later. The kids and I are left with the happy times we spent together. Please urge Sally and her husband to make the time TODAY. They might not have tomorrow. -- SOUTH TEXAS WIDOW
DEAR WIDOW: You're right. There are no guarantees. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My husband also said he was working hard for an early retirement. For 20 years, the boys and I did all the things families do -– only without their father. I was more or less a married single mother. The boys' barber once asked them if they ever visited their father, because he hadn't seen him for years and assumed we were divorced.
When it was time for the good life, my husband found someone else and left us. Sticking around for 20 years was stupid on my part, but I wouldn't trade the relationship I had –- and still have -– with my two sons for anything in the world. I have tried to teach them to work hard and play hard. Life is too short not to. Workaholism destroys relationships. I don't consider myself a loser, but I do think my ex-husband is. He missed out on a great family. -- HAPPY IN INDIANA
DEAR HAPPY: How sad for him. We usually get out of relationships what we invest in them. I don't think you were stupid for sticking around; you were finishing the job you started, and your signature shows it was the right thing for you.