Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Little Big Chat

A recent staring contest between the author (left) and young Jackson Fuchs, age 8.  Winner uncertain.
I'm not a big fan of the "Kids-say-the-darnedest-things" branch of literature.  It gives rise to, in my opinion, the precious and smarmy.  Despite my feelings on the genre, however, there are times that one or the other of my sons come out with things that I must make sure and write down.  This is one of those times.

"Daddy?" Jackson said, the ellipsis hanging invisibly in the air between us.

"Yes, son?"

"Will I look very different when I'm a grown-up?"  He was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, and had just finished brushing his teeth before bed.

"You will," I answered definitively.  "You'll certainly always recognize yourself, but you'll change, too.  You'll get a lot hairier, for one thing."

He then ran to where I was waiting for him in the hallway and threw his arms around me.

"Oh, Daddy," he said, full of emotion.  "I wish you could live forever."

I realized then, returning his embrace, that this was more a conversation about mortality than appearance.  We have these little big chats every now and again.  I've come to accept that when you've got a grandfather you've never met, you are going to have these questions.  He must empathize with me on some level.

"I'll always be with you, son," I tell him.

"I know, Daddy.  Right here," he says, touching his chest where he thinks his heart is.  It's what we always say -- the classic Mufasa-Simba conversation.

But I can tell it's not the same.  He'd like us to be together forever.  I know that in a few years he'll feel differently, so I soak in this unabashed love.

As Jerry Seinfeld said in a recent stand-up routine, "Our children are here for one basic purpose:  to replace us."  All I can do is continue to shower these two people with all the love I can.  In this way, I'll "replace" myself with two young people who know how important it is to be kind and to love, and to leave the world a better place for your having lived in it.

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