I rub my hands across my face, hoping to squeeze out some of the tension. Pat it like pizza dough. Rub it like a baby's rump.
I fear I am aging even faster than normal. I don't have as much silver in my hair as my pal Segal, but my heart is now gray as a cat. It also leaks a little late at night.
Yet, we made it through Mother's Day, our first since the accident. It's already a difficult holiday, in that my wife's only request is to have her kids around. We were three-for-four in that regard. What gift could ever replace him?
We tried to make the best of it. To celebrate her day, we flew in crawfish from Louisiana, we shucked some sweet corn. It doesn't really feel like May till you have clingy corn silk stuck to your wrists and hands. So we had that to soothe us. And icy margaritas served in old jelly jars.
Louisiana is a soulful connection to our late son, Christopher. Like jazz, he was born there. He lives on in anything that reminds us of New Orleans, a city built on silt and smiles.
The crawfish come by express mail, in a Styrofoam box. Live crawfish are best — fresher, less soggy — though there is always the risk you'll form some sort of emotional attachment to the buggy creatures while waiting for their water to boil.
I always think of it as a Sophie's choice: Do I want to spare a life or do I want to eat well? Eating well wins out, of course, though I usually spare one crawfish that we use as a mascot.
Lately, I feel like a mascot myself — of fatherhood and obligation and carrying on in troubling times. Dads are the ultimate plodders, which is maybe what I like best about them. I admire plodders and those with the gift of never giving up. Our greatest tenacity springs from our deepest loves.
Anyway, we seem to have survived another raw So Cal winter and have taken to the backyard again. Damp and green after three days of drizzle, the yard looks like a rainforest.
I seem to be talking a lot about food lately. Maybe it's a dodge, so I don't have to deal with more serious concerns. Or maybe cooking is my "love language," as one daughter likes to say.
When it comes to love languages, I like to think I'm multilingual.
Beer is another of my love languages, and in the past week, I've hosted the Apostles for smoked ribs and also gone carousing with my physician, Dr. Steve, who, I think, is getting kickbacks on my lab work. He's also demanding a $20 co-pay every time I order a round of beer.
Fair enough. Quality medical care doesn't come cheap.
Seriously, I drink with Dr. Steve because his humor is as dry as a Lutheran picnic. He's also — on alternate months — wise and witty.
"I think the best argument against white supremacy," Dr. Steve says at one point, "are white supremacists."
On the side, Dr. Steve teaches medicine to millennials, which must be just the most awful kind of work, yet he seems to enjoy it. The worst thing you can do, he says, is to ask the little Einsteins a question for which they don't have an answer. Spins them out.
Me, I always have an answer, and though it's usually wrong, I blurt it out with such moxie that people will pause, wondering if I'm correct. I think God lives in that pause, in those misty moments of uncertainty and confusion.
"I love the millennials," I say.
"More beer!" yelps Dr. Steve.
In addition to the crawfish, the kids and I also celebrated motherhood with Sunday brunch, a meal I never really cared for.
Like Mother's Day, we made the best of brunch. The daughters picked a place, and some bearded boyfriend tagged along.
The daughters' boyfriends — both bearded — are "a thing" now, with semi-serious intentions. I've grown to like them more than my own children. They are fun to joke with and always have informed opinions on quarterback controversies and golf.
At brunch, the boyfriend described an "Irish exit," which is a term for slipping away unnoticed from unpleasant social gatherings.
At this busy time of year, an Irish exit is good to have in your party arsenal. It's probably not the height of good manners, but so what? Of all the Irish sins, a quick exit ranks pretty low.
Besides, you can always call the host the next day with some little lie — a sudden illness or an illicit encounter with a crawfish.
If your friends love you, they'll completely understand.
And if they don't?
Life goes on.
Columnist Chris Erskine will appear at LitFest Pasadena at 4:15 p.m. Sunday, on a panel on parenting. His new book, "Daditude," will be available for purchase and signing there.