The day started with the sound of an annoying alarm clock. He quickly turned it off before Michelle would wake up, she needed her morning beauty sleep. He lay down in his bed for another moment, stretching his ever aching lower back, trying to figure out which day was it today, as if his mind needed a push on a reset button. Not the type of jumping-out-of-bed person, rather he had to force himself. There was a glimpse of hope for Shaun with this daily morning routine, to reveal how far he was into the working week. Monday was clearly a tough one, while weekends always came as a surprise.
That particular morning seemed to be just an ordinary Wednesday, a routine busy day at work was on the cards. But as he sat down on the side of his bed, feeling the familiar lack of motivation creeping in, a provoking thought came into his mind. ‘What if today was my last day?’. As Shaun leaped his way to the loo, all he could think of was how to make it count today. Caffeine injection was the obvious next step. The coffee machine Michelle got him for his last birthday was his favourite item around the house. Hers was the TV. He remembered how she set it up right in the middle of the kitchen bench that morning, wrapped in a big red ribbon. While Shaun sipped the freshly made cup of Arpeggio, he couldn’t avoid thinking about what’s on his TODO list for today. As he ritually made himself a bowl of fresh fruit with yogurt and granola, he decided to have it here rather than pack it up and have it later at his desk once he got to the office. He pulled up the curtains to let the morning sun come through and took a deep breath as he looked at the nature strip right behind their home. It is beautiful, he thought to himself, was it always there? I wish I had more time to enjoy it. You kind of miss it when you leave early for work and come back home when it’s already dark.
But something interfered with his train of thoughts. Little voices came running down the stairs and gave him a surprising morning hug. “You’re still at home!”, they cheered and dived straight into breakfast preparation with two different types of cereals mixed up together for a blend of fibre, vitamins and lots of hidden sugar. “How about I’ll sit with you guys and have breakfast together”, Shaun said with a smile. “Aren’t you going to be late for work?”, asked Josh, his clever eleven year old boy, in a sweet voice. “Well, I might, but you know what, today is a special day, and on a special day you have to do things differently, and my work can wait”, he smiled again, beating himself for the fact that every single morning in the past 7 years he was rushing to work in the morning without spending precious time with his beautiful children. Charlotte was more than pleased. She gave her dad a big hug and a toothless smile. The little princess had lost her two front teeth just in the last fortnight, making people possibly wonder if domestic violence had something to do with it. The three of them sat together for quite some time, chatting, laughing and chewing, simply enjoying the unplanned quality time. All of a sudden, Michelle stepped into the kitchen in a rush, as she realised how late it was. “Oh sorry, I slept in. OMG, look at the time, you must be late for work”. Her hair was fluffed and her eyes red from lack of sleep. “It’s alright darling, there’s no rush”, Shaun replied. “But you’re going to be late for work, you have to get going”, she rushed her middle-class hard-working husband. “I’m going to take the kids to school today”, he announced. Josh and Charlotte looked at each other in complete surprise before they went “Yayyyyy” and rushed upstairs to brush their teeth and get ready for school, leaving a mess on the dining table. “Are you sure?”, the stay-at-home mum could not hide her disbelief, thinking ‘when was the last time my husband took the kids to school’. “It’s about time I focus on my family. Work can wait”, said the man who consistently put work on top of his priority list for far too long.
As they all stepped out the door and waved goodbye to Mum, Michelle whispered in Shaun’s ear: “Remember the old saying: You hold three balls in your life. Work is like a rubber ball, it bounces up and down. But your family and your health are like a glass ball, if you drop them they will fall apart”. He gave her a look that said ‘I should listen to you more often’, but he wouldn’t dare to admit it and say it out loud. Once they got into the school grounds, Shaun realised he doesn’t even know where the kids’ classes are anymore. ‘I’m such a terrible dad’. “Come and see my drawings on the wall”, Charlotte screamed in a big voice. “Come and play handball with me”, Josh yelled in a desperately excited voice. He rushed between the two, trying to keep everybody happy. He’s used to doing that, at work. Eventually the bell went off, Josh high-fived his dad with a big smile on his face and disappeared into his classroom, while Charlotte gave Shaun a hug and wouldn’t let go until her teacher Miss Blanchette came to the rescue. As Shaun walked back home, he couldn’t stop thinking. ‘How could I spare my own children from these little magic moments. How did I get my priorities so wrong. I need to be more involved in my family’s life. One day they will turn around and say “Dad, where have you been during my whole childhood?!”.
Back at home, Michelle was waiting. “Is everything alright?”, she asked in a worried voice. “Yeah everything is great. I think I’m going to skip work today. Let’s go and have breakfast somewhere by the beach”, Shaun announced. “Sounds like a plan”, she cheered. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you today, but I like it”. She looked him in the eye and smiled. Over a cup of latte and fried eggs he felt that he needed to explain. “I woke up this morning and realized that my life is just passing by and I’m not doing the right things to be happy”. She nodded and quoted Steve Jobs: “If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”. Shaun admired her skill in motivational quotes. She kept going: “And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”. Shaun thought about how many days in a row the answer has been No for him, and mumbled “as many days as I can remember”. He looked desperate. “You are clearly spending too much time at work, darling. The money is good, but we really miss you”. He was wondering why they haven’t had this chat before. “I guess I struggle to find the work-life balance”, he tried to defend himself. “Maybe it’s time to slow down and think about what’s next”. She nodded again and suddenly her eyes lit up as her mouth broke into a smile. “Maybe it’s time to go on a road trip like we always wanted to do with the kids”. He banged on the table with his right hand and shouted “That’s it, let’s do it!”. A few people inside the restaurant turned their heads around to see what the noise was all about. The waiter came over and asked if everything was alright. “Everything is just great”, Shaun smiled and looked at his wife. It was the first time in a while Michelle had seen him smiling a genuine smile. She knows when he fakes it. He doesn’t know when she does.
After breakfast they jumped straight into the water for a swim in their underwear. Today was all about being spontaneous and all the other beach goers did not mind the unusual sight. Then they went shopping. Michelle always tried to drag her man to the mall to get him some new clothes, but he was always just too busy. He couldn’t use that excuse today. They sneaked into the changing room together, tried on different outfits and modelled to each other. Shaun tried on a few dresses and Michelle put on ties and business suits, with or without a shirt. They reminded themselves how much they still like each other. Eventually they were kicked out of the store by the old lady who runs the place. They giggled all the way to school pickup, and the kids were overly excited to see their mum and dad together, even though they were a few minutes late. “What a beautiful family moment, let me take a photo for you”, said Miss Blanchette, as she had never seen Michelle and Shaun together. Back at home Shaun prepared the kids’ favourite dish, spaghetti with cream cheese seasoned with sugar and cinnamon. They loved it, mainly because Shaun topped it up with extra sugar when Michelle wasn’t looking, just to make it extra-special today.
As they finished their family afternoon tea, Shaun looked around him, enjoying the moment. It was so precious to spend time with his wife and kids at home, as simple as can be but yet he didn’t want that moment to end. He lay down on the couch next to his children, and browsed caravancampingsales.com as the little ones watched a cartoon on TV. In the next few minutes, overwhelmed by waves of gratitude for the beautiful family he has, Shaun laid out a plan. When will he give his notice at work, which caravan will they buy and how they will take the kids out of school for a whole year. Suddenly, everything just clicked and it’s all finally coming together, Shaun thought to himself. No more frustration, we’re back on track and finally we can live the life we always dreamt of.
A phone call had interrupted his train of thoughts and the calm serenity around the house. Shaun responded in a hurry and mistakenly accepted the call from an unknown number. “Oh, hello, is it Shaun?”, said an older man’s voice. “This is Dr Appson from the medical centre”. It took Shaun a moment to realise that his voice seemed to be a little nervous, he was mostly a cheerful guy. “Shaun, I wanted to have a chat about the blood tests you’ve done last week”. “Of course Doc, I almost forgot about them”, he was apologetic. “Your cholesterol levels are all fine, zinc and iron at good levels, nothing really is an exception on that front”. Shaun released a sigh of relief. “That’s good to hear, thanks for letting me know doctor”, Shaun was ready to hang up the call. “However”, the doctor kept going, “it’s the PSA blood test that really worries me Shaun. Your results have gone through the roof. You will need to come in urgently for an MRI”. “Wait”, Shaun was still digesting, “What does it mean doctor?”. A few seconds of silence on the other side of the line felt like eternity. “Have you heard about Prostate Cancer before?”.