I’m turning forty this year, and suddenly figured out how to conduct myself as a human being. I imagine it as ‘suddenly’, but it may have been a gradual and rising tide of okayish-ness that finally wet the beach blanket and had me move up the sand . I dunno. We live, we learn.
There’s that statement about grace: when you feel yourself at exactly the right place, at exactly the right time, and when working with exactitude. That’s when you know grace is moving through you.
Figuring it out at forty. Has a nice alliterative ring, no?
Jenn usually texts me at some point during the day.
“How’s the morning, Babe?”
And yesterday I replied: “I’m a ray of light! I’m Jon Cusack with a motherfucking radio!”
I like to keep it interesting.
But that’s how I felt. You see, there are these space telescopes that have lenses made of adjustable cells, and when the cells align just so, the universe snaps into crystal-clear focus. It’s like I’m made of those cells, and when the cells align properly, the cosmos bolts right through me.
This is an overstatement, I’m aware. I grew up on Carl Sagan, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re all stardust. ‘Stardust’ can be a bad David Bowie lyric, but also a measure of simultaneous presence and oblivion. Wouldn’t you love to know that you are, literally, a star? It’s what Sagan has suggested all this time.
So when I’m who I am supposed to be—father, husband, seenchain—storytelling the day through and happy, it seems there’s a bit of stardust in the mix, like it’s a trick.
But it’s not a trick.
It’s not like the Secret in some pay-to-play religion. It’s not anything I can exactly explain.
There are magic incantations involved, though. Words like Harry Potter spells, ones you don’t need a willow wand for.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
“I’ll do better.”
“Good to see you.”
“I hear you.”
“I love you.”
Most importantly, “How are you?”
Like most good spells, there are hand gestures involved. It’s been pointed out that I talk with my hands: I run an open hand over my chest, then turn it outwards as if I were pulling words from my stomach then presenting them as matter of fact.
I have, recently, been tapping my sternum a lot, too, of late, saying ‘heart’ all the goddamn time. This is unlike me, but like me, too. We discover secret languages within ourselves the older we get.
Pleased to meet me.
Jenn leans in the door-frame. Cayde’s supposed to be in bed, and I’m busy writing, my bangs knotted in a bundle.
“He wants you. He says Daddy is best at calming him down when he’s upset.” Jenn smirks.
The pendulum swings. Cayde has told me on occasion that he hates me; but the other day I fell asleep on the couch and woke up to Cayde clutching me tight. He was responsible for pulling a blanket over us, the green afghan that used to be my dad’s. I wake up at 4 a.m.; ‘Good morning, Daddy,’ he says and those are three words that tell me I’ve succeeded in life. That I’ve used words to describe myself, and that he uses words to describe himself in turn. That a morning together is GOOD, that he uses the word, ‘good.’
“Can we have waffles?”
“Going to work, Kid. Sorry—no.”
This whole happiness thing comes at a strange dystopian time. Cayde has heard, perhaps, too much of my Trump vitriol. He gets upset.
“I’m scared, Daddy.”
I tell him to hit me in the stomach, hard. I don’t flinch: my core is strong. This impresses the hell outta Cayde. Dad MUST be a hero to make the kid more of one. (The punches actually hurt, a little).
“You gotta resist and be strong, Kid.”
“But, Daddy: you ask me to hit you in the stomach. That’s what Houdini said. And a guy hit him in the stomach with a hammer and he died.”
My kid’s got a mortal streak (apple not far from the tree).
(Jenn tells me: “He’s scared.”)
So I crawl into bed with Cayde.
He’s been reading his U.S. presidents book everyday, and he’s cued in—perhaps, too acutely—to the fact that a few presidents have been assassinated. Mortal streak, like I said. He’s got me for a dad.
I’m ok this year, but last year the fact of walking was like falling down in slow motion. I see a certain non-existence when I see a seagull land, and stop flying. There is movement and non-movement. Try and tell the difference sometime.
“Cayde—we’ve talked about this. People make a difference, sometimes leaders do. But people are the more important difference. Sometimes leaders who lead people, especially for peace, wind up assassinated.
I choose to be frank with him. My Irish friend made his wife recite to him the word ‘det’ before he died, because death is the eventuality and why the hell say anything different?
Cayde and I—we talk for an hour.
We talk WWII, Hitler, Osama Bin Laden, Bush, Trump, Mussolini, FDR, JFK, RFK, MLK. We talk about feeling scared, and the idea that peace is sometimes mortally and unfairly punished. But also that people’s movements make the difference.
“Seven continents marched for the Women’s March, Dude.”
“Really?” Cayde’s eyes widen.
“Yeah—biggest march in HISTORY, Dude.”
He is stuck on this fact; he also tells me that Charles J. Guiteau shot James Garfield.
“He picked a revolver to kill Garfield, Daddy, because he thought the revolver would look good in a museum. “
Little and selfish acts. Gun in a glass case.
I counter and talk about Ghandi.
Cayde woke up in the morning, asked me while I was pulling on my work clothes, while HE still had his bangs tied in a bundle, and while he was wrapped in the green afghan: “Daddy can you tell me more about Mo-Mohat-Mahat Ghandi when you pick me up today?”
He demanded I pick him up. Mama and I share the duties, but he wanted to have another conversation.
“Sure, Kid.” Let’s talk about him.
My heart: it is full.