You’re not supposed to bury your children

jt772
Jeremy and his mom, 1977

If people were born with warranties we’d all be guaranteed a certain number of years of good to reasonable health. Untimely death by accident or an act of God would be the only exemptions.

This week my son returned home from the hospital, a week mostly spent in the ICU.

He was very sick. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we could have lost him and they still don’t know why. Jeremy’s doctors were skilled enough to revive his failing internal organs, reduce his fever and send him home, yet vials of his blood are still being spun in small centrifuges and smeared onto slides in a lab at the CDC in Atlanta.

JT & me, Fairytale Town2
Jeremy and me, 1982

A couple of weeks from now my kid will turn 39 and while we all try to make sense of the numbers that log our own existence and constantly inform of us how much time we may have left to live, the number of years of JT’s life are completely meaningless to me. I’m his father and all my son’s birthdays are equal from my perspective. They are all scattered moments of his life, the nearly four decades of memories of him that I keep in my heart, timeless and eternal.

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Jeremy and Emily, 1997

He’s still five days old to me, five years old, the teenager, the joyful college student; the remarkable husband and father to his own son that he has grown to become.

He’s still the young man who stunned me by asking that I stand beside him as Best Man in his wedding. When I choked back the lump in my throat and stammered, “Why me instead of one of your buddies?”, he answered as if it was obvious, “Because you’re my best friend”.

For the past week I’ve tried to understand why our children’s lives, regardless of their age and ours, mean more to us than life itself. I suppose it has to do with our own survival instinct, the fierce insistence that above all else we will live forever or at least, in the end, to have mattered.

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Jeremy and his son, Tyler.

It’s a spiritual rabbit hole that I can’t enter and that’s probably a good thing.

All I know for sure is all that will ever matter to me:

My son is alive.

He’s back and getting stronger.

What goes around…

“Your sons weren’t made to like you. That’s what grandchildren are for.” — Jane Smiley

The boy is seven.

He hangs his clothes on the floor with no regard for whether they are clean or dirty.  He leaves string cheese wrappers in the family room, never learns to turn off the TV, frequently forgets to flush the toilet and makes his own breakfast, leaving half of his chocolate milk on the kitchen counter and Cheerios splayed across the floor.

He’s only seven.

As grandparents we are constantly reminding ourselves to be patient.  He’s still trying to learn things his father never quite got the hang of.  Or maybe he’s not trying and that’s the problem.

But it’s not our problem, it’s his dad’s.

I was pecking away at my computer one early morning recently when Isaiah came in wordlessly, picked up the phone from my desk and rang his dad’s room on the intercom.

“Dad?  Would you come get the peanut butter for me?  It’s too high in the pantry and I can’t reach it. — Okay, thanks.”

“Isaiah,” I said, “I would have gotten the peanut butter for you.”

“I know, Grandpa,” he said with a new, impressively mature tone to his voice.

“I just figured Dad needs to get up and get ready to take me to school.”

Whether you call that learning the art of diplomacy or of manipulation it is something that gives grandparents a special sense of appreciation.

Oh, yes. It comes around.

© 2010 by David L. Williams, all rights reserved

Advanced parenting

My son Jeremy stopped by yesterday and today at our request for assistance.

He’s almost thirty-three years old. He’s a husband and dad, he’s got a degree in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly and years of experience as a professional theater technical director. He’s a former Disney Imagineer and is currently a lighting and special effects specialist for the Disneyland Hotel.

I, on the other hand, am the unanimously acknowledged mechanical idiot of the family. Give me a picture of a hammer and three to five minutes of non-pressured peace and quiet and I’ll give you a fifty-fifty chance of correctly selecting the business end of the hammer.

I’m a smart guy. When I was eighteen, forty years ago, I tested for entry into the Air Force and scored above 95% on all areas except mechanical. I got 65% on that one and believe me, it wasn’t much tougher than the hammer problem.

All we needed Jeremy to do was install a new garbage disposal and help Carolann with her Christmas decorations and tree lighting. (Yes, we start early. Don’t bug me about that. We like Christmas.)

And so, he did.

While Jeremy lay under our sink with a crescent wrench (I’m just making up these tool-thingy details, you know,) I sat on the floor and talked just to keep him company. When he put the lights on Carolann’s Christmas tree we listened to the Beatles’ Abbey Road album together and discussed the group’s history, strength and weaknesses.

During the Beatles Anthology early years recordings, I scrubbed the kitchen with bleach and ammonia.

When the work came to an end and he had to leave we hugged and smiled, having enjoyed a special father-son day of doing chores together. Except now, in some ways which don’t bother me in the least, my son is my dad and I am his son.

What goes around comes around and when you still enjoy each other’s company there’s no need for defining roles.

Dad; Son. 

We know who we are.

 

© Copyright 2009, Dave Williams. All rights reserved.