Well. That was fun, wasn’t it?
I really didn’t set out to take the discussion into the cold, bony lap of the Grim Reaper, but when you reach your mid-40s, your birthday can seem like just another tranquilizer dart in your neck. If you have young kids, you can derive some comfort in knowing that, if you die, your widow(er) will keep your memory alive. If you divorce, though, you have no idea how, or even if, you’ll be remembered. You picture your spouse wrapping up every remnant of your existence and flingapulting into oblivion. You wonder if your 18-month-old will even recall what you look like, or if your parents will ever see their grandkids again.
It was this sort of neurosis that drove the piece I wrote in “Things I Learned About My Dad,” an anthology of dadspecific essays compiled by Heather Armstrong. It was a deeply personal (and unapologetically long-winded) letter to my boys to tell them about my family history and the life we led before the marriage, and the economy, and my lower back went to shit.
As I wrote it, I thought that if I were ever booked for a premature trip to oblivion, they’d still have a tangible, textual idea of who I was and how much I loved them.
I’m (mostly) over all that, now that Moxie and I have found some relative peace. Plus, the kids are older, and we’ve spent so much time together. I’ve had them mostly to myself almost every day for the past four summers, so having them for five nights straight isn’t that big a deal. It’s an endurance test, sure, but one you can train for—despite the constantly shifting slope of the learning curve.
And if I’m to be completely honest, I’m still sort of recovering from being the Parent Who Moved Out. Breaking the news to my older son is still burned into my brain as the saddest moment of my life, and my eagerness to take the kids when Moxie asks is probably motivated by a subconscious need to atone. And to make more memories of me that will outlast my life.