Our youngest son shaved last week for the first time, with a real razor, though I told him the scratchy side of a kitchen sponge probably would've done the trick.
He didn't have whiskers, he had wisps. The facial fuzz was soft and foggy, like the flowers they put in bridal bouquets. Sparrows are probably building nests with it right now.
The natural assumption would be that he is growing more mature, but I cautioned my wife not to jump to conclusions.
Men are seldom fully formed, and he is still not a man on so many levels. He is a long way from dandruff, the sure sign that a man has matured. Or lying awake nights worrying about his aging parents, or the 401(k), which is the surest indication that childhood is over.
The little guy still exhibits many boyish tendencies. For instance, he still kisses dogs fully on the mouth, as if it's midnight and they are all in college together.
When I warn him that such kisses might not be healthy, he points to dog slobber's nutritive qualities and swears that there are antigens, enzymes, yeast, vitamins, iron, copper, probiotics, wheat germ, ginger root and witch hazel in the kiss of a beloved animal. That's not to mention the psychic benefits of feeling really loved.
"I mean, who can put a price on that, Dad?" he asks.
For the record, I don't get those same benefits from a dog's eager slurp. What I usually get is goo-slime and the feeling of needing to shower.
I mean, the world is full of failed good intentions. A dog's kiss usually represents pure devotion, and I know it usually comes from the heart. The 300-pound beagle not so much, because he is always trying to slurp remnants of lunch from my lips. Hungry no matter what, the beagle would sever my throat for a small chunk of supermarket cheese.
But the husky? Her kisses are genuine and stick — like a layer of wet polyurethane — to the skin for several years to come.
But it's not like me to worry. If the boy wants to French kiss the dogs, let him French kiss the dogs. Of all the things a 15-year-old can kiss … .
Instead, I'll just go back to fretting over money, which I always do this time of year. It's like football in that it is always a little on my mind.
The other day I was waiting for the ATM receipt to print, which for me is like waiting for a slot machine to turn up cherries. As it gargled out our balance, I ran through the usual thoughts: Am I solvent? Can we make it to the next paycheck? If we declare bankruptcy will they take away our kids? Please?
Stuff like that.
Turns out we had 600 bucks. Yeah, baby. Jackpot!
Now, I realize that I should always know how much money I have in the account, but with automatic withdrawals and rotating subscriptions and the YMCA always going up in price, I confess to not having a firm grip on it all. It feels as if some distant offshore business always has its hand in my pocket.
Looking back, I'm sure I budgeted better when I sat down each week with a checkbook, envelopes and a book of stamps.
But that was a comfort zone I gave up for the convenience and goo-slime of a digital life.
So now I look for new comfort zones, and there are so few. When things get really challenging I summon "the apostles," which is what I've taken to calling my idiot friends.
Sounds so much better — redolent of Sunday Mass — to say "I have an important meeting with the apostles tonight" than to say, "The guys and I are going out to slug down some gin."
For some reason, that sets off all sorts of alarms at home.
I can't tell you exactly what the apostles talk about. But trust me, it's all very tame. We catch up on the families, for example, and the other night I confessed to having some weird dreams lately of Nicole Kidman and sailing ships, but only after I eat really rich desserts before bed.
I also bolt awake at least once a night wondering where I left my Honda.
The apostles and I always have a few hearty yucks together.
We are not yet fully formed, but we are working at it. Many of us fret over money and jobs in the middle of the night — not so much for us, but for the ones who rely on us for every simple thing, including the cheese, the shaving cream and their most-prized possession of all: access to the internet.