To Protect And To Serve
Last week I had a dream that I was twenty again. The twenty year-old version who had a flat top, 32 inch waist and bench pressed 330. The twenty year-old Jack who according to the Shmata Queen wouldn’t have ever looked or talked to her. The twenty year-old Jack who saw some of his dreams blow up in his face, listened to his friends cry while they told him about their parents dying and wondered why Jimmy Boxer killed himself.
Yeah, that was the guy who showed up. Can’t say if it was supposed to be some Jewish version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol or not. He didn’t exactly talk to me or try to show me something about my life that I had forgotten or not noticed. He just appeared dressed in a gray Georgetown t-shirt, a pair of 501s and size 12 Reebok hightops.
I wandered alongside him into a party at the fraternity house and listened to him talk to a couple of girls about Garth Brooks and then watched him saunter off to work behind the bar. I suppose that some part of me knew that it was a dream because in the background I could hear the Stones singing We Love You.
In case you are wondering none of the Stones made an appearance although I suppose that if a rockstar ghost was to visit me it would Keith Richards. I know that he is not dead, but if you are talking about the Stones it just makes sense…sort of. Not that it matters because dreams aren’t supposed to make sense…at least not always.
It is close to 1 am and it is yet another night where I clearly am not going to get enough sleep. Tonight wasn’t supposed to be like this but lately nothing is as it seems and everything is as it should be. For a long while I have felt like I have been riding a runaway train and like all good heroes I have been trying to stop it before it derails and jumps the tracks. Except, tonight I decided that I don’t need to and that it is foolish to try. That twenty year-old version of me would have jumped out of the train, run to his Camaro, floored it and found a way to stop the train. He would have been the hero but not me. Or should I say that I choose a different path.
My son woke up tonight and ran to the bathroom. It was close to midnight when I heard his feet hit the floor and my heart sank a little bit. You see, I have what some people call a nervous stomach. Here on the blog I laugh about my dysfunctional digestive system. There are a million different stories about funny things that have happened to me because of it.
But I don’t see any humor in his starting to develop one. There is nothing funny about it and it bothers me because my job is to protect and serve. I am here to worry about the monsters in the dark, the demons in the night and the mysterious clinkety clanking that we sometimes hear. Not him…me. I am here to shield him from these things.
Every week I bless my children. Every week I place my hand on his head and his sister and bless them.
That is not an exact representation, but it is close enough. The point though remains the same. I am here to help them through the rough moments and well…I am not getting it done as well as I want to.
He tells me that he can’t believe how strong I am and how tough and I silently laugh. I tell him that I have moments of doubt and fear. I explain that life isn’t much different from the chess games that he and I play and that we do the best we can. In the dark I can’t see his face, but I feel his body pressed up against mine. Eighty pounds of person was once eight pounds of baby. I tell him about the nights when he was that infant and talk about the promises that I made then and about how proud of him I am now.
The couch we sit upon is shot. We bought it ten years ago when we bought this house. He doesn’t know that it won’t be making the move with us. He doesn’t quite understand all that is going on around him but he senses the tumult and the turmoil. He wants to know if we are poor and I laugh. It is sort of an uncomfortable laugh. We aren’t remotely close to being poor but compare us to some of his friends we are a little thin in the wallet.
I tell him that I don’t care about any of it. I explain that money doesn’t make you happy but that sometimes it provides you with more options. We talk about education and I tell him again that my dream is for him to live his dreams. He says that he wants the same for me and I smile. I wrap him up in a bear hug and switch from English to Hebrew. He asks me why and I say that it is because I want him to focus on what I am saying.
I am dancing in the fire and singing in the rain now. I have fallen down the rabbit hole and am taking the path less chosen because that is just who I am. I tell my beautiful boy that he needs to remember that his abba feels things just as strongly as does but i just deal with it differently and that is ok. I don’t need for him to be me. I need him to be him. I want him to be the boy that he chooses to be and not who he thinks I want him to be.
His hand is wrapped in mine. I feel his fingers squeezing and I realize that I am going to blink and find a hand just as big or bigger than my own. I am concerned but not worried about him. He trusts me and understands that we are both creatures of habit who are feeling unsettled because our routines are being turned upside down.
He hasn’t quite come into his own yet but I see it happening. He hasn’t figured out just how smart and how strong he is yet but I see it happening. I ask him to believe and to trust and he nods his head. I tell him that every time I bless him I give him some of my strength and I feel him smile. It won’t be long before he’ll question that but if it works the way I hope that blessing will always give him a little boost. I really hope it does because my job as a father is to protect and to serve.