Thursday, November 09, 2006

And Then You Were Five

And when I roust you in the morning you are like a teenager determined not to budge. But then I talk to you in a silly voice and tickle your back and ribs. That smile that defines you sneaks in beneath your closed eyes; and your face is alight with love and mischief. And then my face is reinforced with the same. And I know that our morning will be brief while it tries in vain to hold onto itself. A brief morning before the day’s obligations intercede.

I think at once of our time beneath the Bradford Pear tree in the front yard. You grabbing your first leaf. And then your second. Marveling at something new. And then the canopy of all the world’s leaves at once. You had no talk then and I interpreted all of your questions as only a father could. And I spoke to you, answering each question as if I too were experiencing a canopy of leaves for the first time. And, in truth, I was.

And then on the porch we sat for your first rain storm. The wind-pushed rain christened our faces. You were surprised and happy. And when that first slow rumble of thunder rolled over us, you clapped your perfect hands in appreciation. And I melted a little more wondering if it were possible to never let you go.

And, of course, that is not possible.

And when I saw you walk on the beach in Naples, I knew the sensation of flight. And of being newly grounded. I held you tight while hundreds of stingrays danced at our feet and dolphins splashed nearly within our reach.

And then you found talk and your questions flowed like spring. Each answer rooting itself within you, a newly found thing becoming the bigger part of you. Your need for knowledge and patient pursuit of it were inspiring. I’d never met someone with such a need to know. And I respect that still.

You showed early on that your sensitivity knows no bounds; that you feel things on a level different from most folks. It is refreshing and bold and wonderful. And it keeps me up nights worrying about you. How do I balance the need to protect you with the knowledge that such protection would be devastating? You are keenly aware that you define your own terms of feeling. You need no protection. Even though I often need you to. But then you’ve always been able to turn on a dime, moving from the big issues of a sometimes mean world to the things that make you and your audience happy. This is a unique talent that few possess. Own this ability and the world will follow your lead.

And the things we discuss amaze me. We talk of God and death. But most often dinosaurs and every animal imaginable. You explain things about them to me in a way that a Daddy can understand. We talk of families and the moon, planets and neighborhoods, foods we like and weather. We talk about the kids at your school and the way friends can impact one’s day. For better or worse.

And you seem to have mastered in a short while the ability to be utterly comfortable in a group or on your own. You are without pretense or anything ulterior. You are fully comfortable in your own skin. Some people spend a lifetime trying to establish such a comfort. I suspect you will grow to require moments of solitude in order to maintain the commercial values you have. It is a good balance to own. Your grip appears, thus far, solid.

There comes a point when a man realizes he is unable to quantify the love he has for his child. This is, of course, as it should be. There’s no need to chart the infinite. No need at all. I feel like you know this. For when our eyes meet, the look you return is my own. And there are no words for that.

And something that pleases me more than you could know, is your wiser than wise sense of humor. You recognize that few things are as fulfilling as making someone laugh. You waver precariously between class clown and concerned observer; but you seem to manage it well enough. And as important as making others laugh is the unique ability to make yourself laugh. Always be able to laugh at yourself. I’ve long said that I am my own best audience. That isn’t likely to change. You and I seem to share bizarre senses of humor and I think they are among our better qualities. I will tell you there is an extremely short list of people who truly make me laugh. You, son, are on that list. How I hope you will remember us lying in bed making each other laugh until we couldn’t talk. Me with tears on my face. You with the brightest grin and giggle in the universe. These are memories that have fashioned lives of their own.

And then you were here. You did all the things you were expected to do and then some. You came equipped with the things it regularly takes a lifetime to acquire or build. And being unselfish to degrees that baffle me, you shared these things with me.
Replete with rock solid senses of self, of place, of decency, and of what is right and wrong in the world you gave me reason to have more faith in the things around me.

And then on Tuesday of this week, while pondering what a lucky man I am and how my baby boy might just be the most complete person I’ve ever known, I blinked. I blinked and looked up.

And then you were five.