Thursday, June 25, 2009

Alone Again, Unnaturally

Do you ever bask in the adorableness of your children and thank your lucky stars that our world is so ethically shallow as to actually cater to good-looking people – because it means your children have a bright future? Me too.

Katie and the kiddos left earlier this week to visit some of our lovely extended family members, who are both lovely and extended. And I will be joining them at a later date. It has left me alone for a few days. I miss them. And with all that silence, I have felt reflective. Well, that’s not what I felt first, obviously. No, first I felt the freedom of treating my house like it was the studio for a Men’s Underwear photo shoot, featuring me (and only me). Then I felt the freedom of eating an unjustifiable amount of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Then I felt the freedom of watching far too many reruns of Seinfeld (I hadn’t before realized there was such a thing.) And then I felt the freedom of a house so eerily quiet, I could hear the fruit ripening on our pear tree. Outside.

And then I realized how seldom in my life I have been home alone, and how lonely an empty house is. And I felt reflective….

I was lounging in the bathroom the moment I found out I was going to be a dad for the first time. We were at my parents’ house, and it was Thanksgiving. Everybody had finished dinner, and we excused ourselves as we snuck off to the bathroom so Katie could pee on a stick. Also so she could take a home pregnancy test. (Boing! Thank you, I’ll be here all week! Don’t forget to tip your waitress!)

I will forever remember Katie’s face when she held up that little stick with the two lines. We stared at each other in complete silence, but the moment was emotionally deafening. I was thrilled and overwhelmed. Confident and vulnerable. In love and uncertain. I cried. Katie cried. There was fluid from every orifice. Me, my wife, and a baby – feeling our lives change while hanging out in a bathroom. (I had no idea in that instant how prevalent the bathroom and babies would be in our future.)

Each time one of my six children have been born, I have felt this inherent tug inside me to say something so profound – so thought provoking and weighty – that every communication medium in the world would shove a microphone in my face and ask me to repeat my brilliant insight so it could serve as the perfect sound byte for what joy feels like. But the words have never come. And they never do, not even in the small non-life-altering moments.

Like that first time you come home from work and your baby recognizes that it’s YOU and that you are somehow very important to them and you have been gone, and they squeal and their little body shakes until you hold them. I love that. Like when you watch your child timidly attempt something far removed from their comfort zone, but they exercise the hope and trust, even faith, that they will succeed and it will be fun or rewarding or wonderful. And then it is. Like when your young, inhibited son, who hesitates to ever openly demonstrate confidence completely destroys the competition in a half-mile race. Or when your 11-year old writes a poem for you for Fathers’ Day that is so personal and sweet and loving that publishing it publicly would belittle it. Or when your daughter tells you that she wants to marry somebody just like you. Or when you leave the house for two minutes to get the mail and when you come back in the house your three year old cocks his head to the side, as if he’s just read a chapter out of How to Look so Adorable Your Parents Will Give you Anything, and says, “Dad. When you were gone. I missed you.” Or when your daughter refuses to ever let you leave the house without giving you a hug and a kiss. Or when your children don’t know you are watching them, and they are just being their unguarded selves, and it is like watching lyrics being written.
My hope – and I have to believe this is true – is that in the Next Life, at our leisure, we are able to instantaneously recall each mortal moment, and almost relive it. That we will be able to readily bring to memory all of these moments. Moments that affected you in a way that you just couldn’t attach words to.

I also have to believe that in the Next Life, Haagen-Dazs is served upon your arrival. That’s just good hospitality.