They say that when you are dying your entire life passes before your eyes in just an instant. There is another way to experience that sensation, of your entire life passing so quickly before you, one that leaves you in a much less permanent state of death. You want to watch your entire life pass before you in an instant? Just have kids.
When my daughter Amanda was born the idea of being a father was an entirely new concept; one that was both exhilarating and frightening. I would not have exchanged her for the world (that wasn't an option, right?). There was one thing about my daughter that I could have done without (besides the dirty diapers and the spontaneous projectile vomiting) and that was that she never slept at night. Never. We attributed that to the fact that Arlene, my wife, went to the gym every day right up until the moment she gave birth. Amanda was born wearing a headband and a neon yellow sweat suit (no, not really, that would be ridiculous). Every night, while Arlene slept, I walked the bedroom floor with Amanda, singing 'Ave Maria' to her (not the whole song, just those two words; it was all I knew). She did tell me years later that 'Ave Maria' was one of her favorite songs. I held her and walked in circles around the bedroom most nights; she was so small, and helpless, and oh-so-very loud.
Then I blinked.
I'm often asked, 'Where is Amanda?' Good question. She spent four years living in New York City while she attended NYU. After graduation she worked in the city and lived in several of the surrounding boroughs. She'd gone down to Florida (a few times) for some concerts, then to Atlanta to visit her old roommate (and more concerts). Off to England and then Amsterdam (I think she enjoyed that trip a little too much). A brief stint back home followed by a short trip to Michigan (Hell, Michigan actually -- she sent me a post card). Amanda gets that wanderlust from her mother; in her younger years Arlene loved to travel the world (the problem was Arlene kept coming back).
Right now Amanda is living and working in North Carolina. Why? Just because...
Much like today, Alexander entered this world without making a sound. At birth he looked like a muted rubber doll colored an awkward shade of grey. It wasn't until a second doctor rushed into the delivery room, blocked our view of our newborn and worked some medical miracle, that we finally heard from Alexander that first gasping cry of life.
Alexander would be back in the hospital a year later (on his birthday) with a severe upper respiratory infection that would keep him in an oxygen tent for several days. The doctors warned us there could be long term respiratory problems when he was older; that he could develop asthma.
Two years later I held Alexander down as a doctor stitched his forehead. He had cut it wide open while at the babysitter playing on the swing. He stuck his head out as the swing flew by and caught his flesh on an extended screw. Even as the doctor sewed up the wound Alexander never made a sound.
A year later he had a cast on his leg when he suffered a greenstick fracture to his leg while playing with his mom in the living room. I had a real concern that my son would grow up to be asthmatic accident-prone man often attacked by life.
Then I blinked.
I heard that answer a lot. But he wasn't sleeping because the asthma I feared might inflict him took the wind from his sails, or some accident sentenced him to a bedridden life. I opened his bedroom door.
"You awake?" I asked.
"Grrr...yeah," he grunted his reply.
I looked at the empty food containers stack on his bed stand, and then over at my son; he was huge.
He wasn't 'I just ate a dozen Oreos with a gallon of milk and I'm still hungry' huge, he was 'I just got back from the gym and I'm exhausted' huge. His legs hung off the back of the bed like someone washed his mattress and it shrunk in the drier. His shoulders filled the bed as he lumbered to turn and look at me. If there was an asthmatic accident-prone kid in this room Alexander probably would have eaten him.
Between football, basketball, weight-lifting, and any other half-dozen events he does at college my fear that Alexander would have grown into a sickly adult were certainly put to rest. My only fear now was that he might get mad and kick my ass.
My youngest son Danny came out of the womb asking questions; he was always an inquisitive child. In grade school he was the first to volunteer. Even when he moved to a new town in the fourth grade, not knowing anyone, he volunteered to be George W. Bush in the mock campaign the school was running. He went from classroom to classroom making speeches and, much like the president, he won the election. Danny was once just one phone call away from appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres show for his invention, 'The Sleepy Head', a compact device that allows napping on long car rides. Unfortunately, he lost out to a classmate who did appear on the show (damn you Nose Sweater).
Then I blinked.
Actually, this one was not so much of a surprise. It was easy to see the outgoing kid who didn't mind talking to crowds growing up and being the amp-jumping guitar playing singer who I watched in awe on stage. Of course I was nerve-wracked at his first attempt at singing in a local coffee shop. Even then it only took three songs for him to go from the tentative singer to the mini-Elvis that flung his guitar with abandon.
What I didn't see coming was: No-Shave-November.
Danny was a cute little kid with a bowl-shaped-blond-haired Beatles haircut. I guess I couldn't have expected him to stay that way, but I definitely did not like how he looked this year. I have to state that although I have grown many beards in my life I detest the way they look on anyone who is under twenty-one. And Danny took his to the extreme.
For example, a few weeks ago I went over to see the kids and Danny was standing outside. I stepped from my car wearing dark, wraparound sunglasses. Danny took a look at me and said that I looked like Magneto from X-Men. I told him he looked like Dr. Xavier from X-Men -- if Dr. Xavier was Amish.
He has since trimmed it down to an almost acceptable state.
It all goes by so incredibly fast -- I'm almost afraid to close my eyes.
(Me and the kids somewhere between then and now.)