When two people become parents there are certain concessions that have to be made. To start raising a child is almost like selling all of Manhattan for $23 in beads and a couple of bottles of fire water. Still, to be a dad and watch my child grow up into a good, morally centered, self-aware human is life’s greatest reward. To think that all I had to give up was the relationship my wife and I once shared. Not the entire relationship, but the one that is still a mystery to my child. My wife Lori and I speak in parent code, but our child is onto us. She knows that we used to be friends in a murky past life. Sometimes, on days when she’s busy growing up, Lori and get to have a few moments remembering life before we were mom and dad.
We don’t really have many formal dates. Formality usually gives way to being our weird selves. The other day, when our child was at drama practice all day, Lori and I rode around having those strange conversations where we didn’t have to stop and explain anything, or revert to secret parent code. We were in the car, which I was driving way too fast, because it was only ourselves that would be thrown from the wreck. Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All Of These Years came on and I made the mistake of saying to Lori “This pretty much sums up my life.” The first line, unfortunately, is “I met my old lover on the street last night.” Lori asked what old lovers I meant and I had to reassure her that she is and will always be the oldest. Not reassuring. She brightened up and nodded after the second verse began (“I’m not the kind of man who tends to socialize. I seem to lean on old, familiar ways”). “Oh. That’s you. So? What lovers?” Later, enjoying more time alone (i.e, time in which we weren’t going through pre-teen drama prefaced with the screech of ” but ma-ah-mmmm”), we started watching Homeland. I like any show that doesn’t feature talking, aquatic cleaning supplies. If you’ve never watched Homeland, it has two constant threads running through it. Torture and half-dressed women. Lori told me to stop staring at one of the non-torture threads and I brushed it off with “Oh, well. She’s not my type.” See? This is why it sometimes works best to have children around. They are the honesty patrol. Children act as a firewall between dad’s stupidity and mom’s ears. My daughter Anna will usually shrug when asked to repeat my stupidity and shout “I don’t know what he said. I was watching Spongebob. You guys are soooo weird.” We won’t be watching TV until I can somehow assure Lori that nobody on televison is my type. She’s my type, because she puts up with casual stupidity. In any case, Anna’s home tonight and it’s back to speaking in code, leaning on old familiar ways. I don’t get in as much trouble with code.
When I was seven years old the neighbor kid fell out of his upstairs window while in the throes of laughter about something long forgotten. He survived, and went on to a full life of falling down. To be sure, there was some bouncing around on the sidewalk. Tests couldn’t determine head injury, but his intelligence was negligible to start. I often wonder if he made it out of childhood. Those who did can look back and say “Wow. We dodged a lot of open windows.”
My wife Lori turns 40 on Sunday, and the family threw an upbeat surprise party for her. There were none of the standard “over the hill” jokes trotted out, and I’m glad. Making it to her advanced age (I’m a younger man still in his 30’s) has nothing to do with being on the decline, or over the hill. It’s a campaign medal of sorts, earned by staying away from windows. Lori has lived through the end of the Apollo program and of the Vietnam War, Watergate, 5 recessions, Disco, the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the AIDS epidemic, ethnic genocide, 9/11…the more stuff I list, the more I risk sounding like Billy Joel. The reality is what old folks always used to warn us about: One day you wake up and you’re 40. I’m glad to have the opportunity, though. Sure, you blink and miss a lot of excitement as you’re busy living. All that trying to dodge neighbor kids falling from the sky doesn’t leave time to savor life. A lot of my reminiscing about the life I’ve led is about stuff that was as unimportant then as is now (“I remember the Jackson’s Victory Tour. ‘Even got the poster”). It’s just enough to have beaten circumstance and be around to tell about it. Congratulations, Love and Best Wishes, Lori.
Now I sit by my window
And I watch the cars
I fear I’ll do some damage
One fine day
But I would not be convicted
By a jury of my peers
Still crazy after all these years-Paul Simon Still Crazy After All These Years