I have two sons, 3 and 4 years old. They never cease to amaze me. They bring out the best in me, and the worst. They seem to be relatively accurate mirrors that reflect back all my perceived deficiencies and insecurities. They also make me feel tragic love for them. What I mean is that often when I look at them, at the risk of sounding trite, I am reminded of how precious life is, how fleeting it is, how much joy and suffering there is, and just how delicate it can be.
Last night after work, I took the boys to our playroom/home gym and rode the stationary bike while watching them romp. They don’t often get along, but they were last night. They played with toys, chased each other, dance like Elain Benes on Seinfeld, and generally acted like two beautiful boys relishing life. They were so awesome to watch. They were so precious and wonderful.
When I look through their eyes at the world, I am sometimes magically and instantly transported back to my own childhood. Things become so much clearer when that happens. I see how my perceptions and thoughts have changed over my life, how I used to process experience so differently. For whatever reason, I just wanted to record that moment here, because, like everything, it’s transient, slippery, ephemeral in that it comes and goes leaving only a slight memory that gets jumbled up with all the rest of the memories. What beautiful boys I have.
My four-year-old came home from pre-school recently, ran up to my office and exclaimed, “We all go to heaven and stay there forever. Are you going to go to heaven too dad?” Just writing this gives me chills because what do you reply to this? My wife and I had never discussed death with him; our thinking was that he may be a bit too young. But the pre-school apparently thought differently. Oh well, you roll with the punches as a parent. But it’s a tough subject because as a parent, I don’t want my child to know of death, or ever experience it. I don’t want him to die, ever. I also don’t want to die relative to him, because that will mean he is fatherless.(And I don’t want to die, period.)
The subject came up again when my older brother unexpectedly died. We didn’t take our boys to the wake or funeral, wanting to protect them against such harsh and vivid reality at such a young age. But predictably, my pre-school son asked if he too went to heaven. I told him ‘yes’ and when he inquired when he was coming back I had to face the reality that the only answer is ‘never’. And that’s what I told him.
So when he asks me if I am also going to go to heaven some day, I have to reluctantly also say ‘yes’. But I took a page out of my mother’s handbook. I said, “By the time I go to heaven, you’ll be so sick of taking care of my elderly self that you’ll be happy.” Not so delicate or philosophical, but it’ll have to do.