My children talk about my life before becoming a father as if it is mythology. They tell stories that they have heard the same way that you might talk about Zeus, Hera or Apollo. To them these tales are slightly more real than Superman or The Hulk. They have seen pictures of us but still can’t quite grasp that there really was a time when they didn’t exist.
I understand it because I lived it. I remember the days when I struggled to understand how my own parents could have been around as kids. I remember moments in high school where I just didn’t buy what they were selling, times were far too different to understand me. They couldn’t possibly follow or conceive of what it was like to be a teen in the eighties.
And now decades later I understand how ignorant and naive I was. Now I understand it all in a different way. I recognize that the human condition if you will hasn’t changed all that much. If you dropped me into the 17th century I’d find boys and girls, men and women who had dreams of what they wanted to be, who fell in and out of love, who did everything that I did…just years earlier.
The dark haired beauty has been taking gymnastics for several years now. She twirls, spins and tumbles around the gym, laughing and giggling the whole time. At home she has developed a number of games to play with me. At least twice a day I hear her call “daddy” and I know that I am going to be called up to do something that allows her to hang on me.
Last night she decided to hang from my arms. So she tells me to make a muscle and hold it tight. She walks over and grabs my bicep with two hands and tells me that I am the strongest man around. I laugh because she is trying to manipulate me. She hasn’t realized that I like playing these games with her. Nor is she aware that I am fully conscious of the moments where she wraps her arms around my neck, kisses my cheek and asks for a new toy.
I won’t lie, it is nice to have this beautiful girl do these things but because I am her father I don’t give her everything she asks for. It is good for her to want things and to see that it takes work and effort to get them.
As she squeezes my arm she tells me that she needs to check the other one so I come up with a new pose and ham it up a bit. Now, I am Jack the Powerlifter and as I lift her up I grunt. She squeals with laughter and tells me that she wants to know how big my arms are and then I laugh.
Ten thousand years ago when I was that single guy the kids have trouble imagining I dreamt of many different things. There were trips I wanted to take, girls I wanted to date and goals for my workout. One of those goals was to have 16 inch arms. Don’t ask me how I came up with that number, I just did.
I didn’t just want 16 inch arms. I wanted them to be cut so that you could see the muscles ripple. I remember making the plan to do it. I think that I was a sophomore in college when I came up with the idea. In high school I had been a swimmer and had been unable to do the kind of workout that this required.
Swimming meant long muscular arms-now I was going for a different look. It is funny to write this and see how shallow it sounds. I had other dreams as well, but we’ll save that for a different post.
Anyhoo, as time passed I eagerly marked my progress. I got stronger very quickly, it was easy to gain strength but harder to get my arms to do what I wanted them to do. But I stayed at it and worked hard.
Fast forward to the present. The dark haired beauty takes my hand and leads me to get a tape measure from the sewing kit. We grab it and wrap it around my right arm, it doesn’t feel like my tefillin but that is ok and to be expected they go on my left arm.
I look down at my arm and I see numbers. That 16 inch mark that I wanted way back when has been exceeded. It is about 17 inches or so. A wistful smile passes across my face. The dream that was is no longer. It is not something that I care about anymore, having big arms.
Now I have other dreams of more substance and meaning. There are a few that are tied into the physical. There are goals to be achieved and things I desire. But most of that is related to getting myself back into shape so that I can maintain my health as I age.
So that I am able to dance at the weddings with the kids and play with grandchildren. There are years before those things take place, but now I feel the passage of time. Now I know how fast it goes so I pay more attention to my dreams, those big and small.