TO JACK AND ALL THE OTHER BIRTHDAY BOYS
It's hard when your kid turns 9.
And you stand for a day midway between the delivery room and the front door. The front door he will walk out as an adult someday, leaving pieces and memories of his childhood.
In a house that will be suddenly quiet.
And while you wonder how you're going to get the bike together you think about those things.
You wonder where it is all going. How half your chance to raise this kid is already gone and how everything you'd planned remains undone and distant and you realize that maybe the future isn't such a sure thing.
And it isn't such a long thing.
Like it was the day he was born. With tiny newborn fingernails and a pointy head from pushing too long and unfathomable expectations of what his life would bring. Back then the future stretched on forever.
There was some kind of warm Norman Rockwell print and it was always going to be there and it was always going to be the same and that was the future.
But life teaches you that time is fleeting and that a year can go and so can two and now nine years have passed and that fast again the game will be done.
When your kid turns 9 and you're wondering where to buy a Boy Scout knife you notice for the first time that it is slipping through your fingers. That it won't last forever. That your turn is half over.
That this kid has already logged half his childhood.
And you can't quite remember ever taking him fishing.
And though you bought him a little baseball cap when he was born, there have been, all these years later, very few times that you've actually thrown him a baseball, or helped him swing a bat or pitch a horseshoe.
Or lay down and camp under the stars.
And it takes a moment to remember the last time you made it home for dinner.
You break your back and you think you do it for him, but he probably doesn't care about your paycheck or how fast your career has moved or how much ground you still can cover if you really push yourself.
I have a son, you say, but he doesn't truly have me.
And when he lives this many years again he will be 18 and a man and those bony arms will be hard and strong and his grin will be surrounded by rude adolescent whiskers.
That's when they go to college. Or buy a bus ticket for California. Or make a deal with a recruiter. That's when they're not yours anymore.
And they go off and do things that you do and that seems a long time from here.
But it's only nine years.
And he's old enough to know that two times nine is 18, but he can't begin to know that two times this is a different world.
So you pick out a card and you resolve to maybe make the second nine better.
To do more and talk more and sit more. And try to remember the small enthusiasms of boyhood. To get more pleasure out of karate classes and BB guns and professional wrestling.
And to let this kid know what is truly important.
About values and character and morals, and how to work and save and excel. To be happy and independent and free. To read great books and think good thoughts and live by faith.
And be ready for 18.
And know that what you did yesterday isn't as important as what you do today and tomorrow. Like his dad is trying to learn.
That's all the stuff you think about, in the middle of a young man's childhood, when you ponder what was and what is and what still might be.
When your kid turns 9.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2012