Well, possibly dead. This thought concerns my 5.5 year old daughter Olivia.
Driving Lucas to daycare last week he asked in his 2 year old way “Daddy I want an old truck, hot-rod.” To which I proudly responded, “Sure Lukey I’ll get you an old hot-rod truck when you are older.” Without missing a beat Olivia chimed in with “If you’re alive then Daddy.”
It was some comedic relief from the day to day grind that all parents face. A moment of brevity offered up from the astoundingly astute mind of a child. Those 5 words – “if you’re alive then daddy” carry far more weight than my little girl could possibly now know, even as smart as she is. And she IS crazy smart. and talented. and has a remarkable memory. She reads books like her mother and hits a baseball like her father used to be able to. She remembers half-birthdays and full truths and is unflinching in her resolution to know that you know that she knows.
But what she simply can’t know now is how heavy those words are. I’m an old parent. Personality-wise I’ve always been a crotchedy bastard but now I am actually old in terms of having young children. Age is a number sure but bones get softer and muscles get weaker as that number gets higher. There are things I can – and need – to do to stay healthier for my kids. But I can’t fight time – and that scares the holy hell out of me.
I don’t want to be anywhere without Chaos and Mayhem. The thought of leaving them before they can handle it saddens me. The thought of them needing to be mindful of their mother and I in our 60s as they try to define themselves in their 20s angers me a bit – I feel like I shouldn’t pre-emptively put that burden on them. But I have no choice now. I had a choice almost 6 years ago to not be a father. And then again 2 years ago October. But we made our choices and our kids will have to live with them. I wouldn’t want my life any other way – well except maybe to have started 5 years earlier – and for the opportunity to be their father I am eternally grateful.
I started thinking about how much time “youth” really owns. Really it’s not much. Maybe 20 years give or take. Figure maybe 8 years old to 28. maybe 30 or so. Some 20 some-odd years of understanding your surroundings and living in them with the choices for physical and emotional change unimpeded by dollars and mortgages and age and all the responsibilities that come along. How many summers do you really get where the taste of heavy night air is palpable while making memories, not just reliving them from decades past? I live through my kids now. Not fully of course because to me being a good Father means being who I am and demonstrating that – flaws and all – to my kids to learn from. They can choose to walk my footsteps or run away from my past altogether. But if I’ve given them something to work with then I succeeded in some part.
Still, the thought of possibly not being here to teach my son to drive a stick shift or watch him turn a wrench on his own jalopy saddens me. Of not being sure that I will ever hold a grandchild. Or give my beautiful girl away (as if I ever really could). With age comes some distorted perspectives I guess. Thinking too much about the past that can’t be relived and too much about a future that can’t be predicted. Jules and I have good genes. Our parents and grand parents are amazing examples. I hope this is all moot and she and I will be around long enough to watch Olivia and Lucas try to contort their minds around being a Mom or Dad. To getting the phone call that Mayhem didn’t put enough gas in the 64 Chevy. That Olivia will reveal herself as her mother’s daughter and be an astounding Mom.
I wondered why I always loved summer. I guess for me Summer represents hope and youth. Now it is my kids who are both. On the day before the 1 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing I guess I just want to make sure they know that I love them beyond words.