My son asked me not to die. In a quiet voice he looked at me and told me that he didn’t want me to. I don’t think that I’ll ever forget that night. It was December of 2004. We had finished opening Chanukah gifts and lying in his big boy bed. Just a few weeks away from turning four, he looked at me and said please don’t die.
The thought of dying without getting a chance to see him grow up was heartbreaking to me. I couldn’t imagine not seeing this little boy become a man and couldn’t imagine who would teach him how to become one. It was shocking to me because until that point I didn’t think that it had ever occurred him that one day his parents would be gone. He was too young to understand death, so why would it ever occur to him to apply it to me.
I know, it was naive and foolish on my part to think so- but that is what I thought. So when it happened it really threw me for a loop. I was glad that it was dark so that he couldn’t see me choke up or the tears in my eyes. When I think back on that moment I can see some of it more objectively than I once did because 2004 was a very tough year. It was the year that my own father almost died and I suspect that played a role in how I reacted.
This is all tied in with why I wrote A Father’s Blessing. There is a purpose, a rhyme and a reason to all of this. These posts aren’t written for self indulgent reasons or sheer sentimentality. They are a living record of my life and those I love. These are fragments of my life, moments in time that are frozen in memory. They’re a chronicle that one day I will pass along to the children so that they have something hard and tangible to remember me by. So that they know that their father loved them fiercely and so they see some of the thoughts, ideas, fears and feelings that make me who I am.
And on a selfish level they provide that forum in which I can collect my thoughts and try to understand what it is I think or feel. So that I can take a look back at those moments and smile or frown at the tapestry of life I am creating. The parade of endless images are part of what I use to pay homage to that which deserves the notoriety.
But it would be wrong of me not to include my daughter in this discussion because the dark haired beauty has talked about this too. I remember her screams. Daddy You Died. That was what she said, in her soft voice. I remember holding her while she sobbed on my shoulder and doing my best to calm her down.
That moment has been on my mind more than a few times recently. People who are dear to me have very sick fathers and though they are grown women, mothers of their own children I hear the sadness in their voices. I hear their fear and I feel for them. I don’t think that we ever reach a place where we don’t want to have our parents in our lives.
“You made a promise to me and I going to see that you stick to it,” is what he said. I looked at him and smiled. He told me that he was serious and I nodded my head. The little boy who asked me not to die is long gone and now a big boy who has the same name has taken his place.
I stare at this boy and see hints of the little boy he was and shows a few signs of the pre-teen he is soon to become. Not long before this boy had asked me not to play basketball with the guys. I understood why he was asking and in truth part of me wanted to stay- but I told him that I couldn’t because exercise is too important.
It is not an easy request to turn down. The decision to play isn’t done without considering how that impacts him. Basketball is very important to me. It is part of how I maintain my sanity and part of how I fight the battle of the bulge.
When he asked it touched several chords for me. I made him a promise 6 years ago to try my best to stay healthy so that I would be around for as long as possible. So when he talked about keeping promises that is what he was referring to.
Still, between work and school there are limited hours that we can spend together. It is part of why I try hard to find time to take the kids out separately. It doesn’t have to be a long time and it doesn’t have to be anything special.Â
Truth is that sometimes I take them on errands with me because I know that even though it may not be fun stuff it is still time spent together. This parenting thing is a three ring circus that never quits. The thing is that in the circus the clown gets some down time. He doesn’t have to worry about juggling all day and night long. The lion tamer comes out of the cage once in a while.
But being a parent, that never stops. I am not complaining I knew that the job was dangerous when I took it. 😉