Like you, we take a lot of walks these days to get out of the house during the coronavirus shutdown. I’ve got ticks, I’ve got aphids, my knees are about to buckle.
The wolf, she takes her time on these walks. That’s fine, for what else do I have to do at the break of dawn but stand in the cold rain on some country lane, staring at a tunnel of trees, hoping there’s a light at the end?
I stand there and admire all the places that are better than mine: bigger, lovelier, draped in honeysuckle and taffeta… with flecks of 14-karat gold around the doors. Four fireplaces, sometimes five.
Our little house? All it’s draped in is memories. There are Wiffle balls in the gutters and termites in the porch. I like it well enough.
I am happy for the people with better houses. Sure, some married money, a classic life skill I learned too late.
But I’d like to think most earned their fortunes in some admirable way — crushed it at the office, took more risks, which is something they never teach you in school. To take risks.
Risk is everything. Without it, there are no jackpots, no big rewards. Nothing gets better.
That’s my theory on risks, use it as you will. After all, I am just a man standing in the dark with the dog, the cold rain tingling down my neck.
Me, I took plenty of risks. None of them panned out, except for having too many children. That might be the riskiest thing of all. And the biggest jackpot.
This weekend, if not for the COVID-19 crisis, we would’ve celebrated my older daughter’s wedding.
That doesn’t mean we’re sad. Life is tears and laughter. She will be married another day, most likely in June, though we’re not certain yet the year.
But when the crisis lifts, what a wedding we will have. There will be a keg, a live band, lots of square dancing.
“You know what people like?” I asked my daughter the other day.
“Root beer Popsicles,” I said. “People really love root beer Popsicles.”
And I’ll make a teary and hilarious toast.
If there’s anything an old guy like me can do, it’s to give a wedding toast to the most wonderful daughter a dad could ever have, scary smart and radiant as candles on Christmas Eve.
Posh would’ve liked to be there, of course, and we may leave a place setting and a red rose to honor her, maybe fill her wine glass a little.
It will be wistful; it will be wonderful. My late wife will be remembered every time her older daughter smiles.
A mother’s daughters are the heartbeats she leaves behind. Her sons too, though the daughters tend to be a little less feral, a little more like her.
I’m not going to bash boys here, because I’m really sick of that. Besides, if you have a son, you have everything.
Take my son (please).
He’s on his fourth week home from school, and one moment we are sidekicks, the next we are hurling chairs at each other from across the room.
Lately, he’s been beating me at more and more games. It’s the natural order of things; first, sons beat dads at driveway basketball, generally around age 15.
Then they start remembering sports stats better than you — like bear traps, their brains.
Then, one day they are taller, that’s the worst.
Eventually, they beat you at board games too, and that’s what’s happened lately, the little idiot showing less and less remorse with every victory.
Really starting to get to me. I’ve devoted my life to him, and if you asked him my age, he probably wouldn’t come within 30 years. I’m not even sure he knows my first name.
Still, I love him, even though he keeps beating me at Jenga, the wooden puzzle.
Usually, he wins by kicking me under the table or breathing hard when it’s my turn.
His favorite trick is to mimic my heart rate while I tenderly try to extract a puzzle piece, as if it were a kidney.
“Ba-BUMP, Ba-BUMP,” he says, trying to make me twitch.
It sounds like the soundtrack from “Jaws,” the way he does it, steadily faster. Baaaa-BUMP … Baa-BUMP … Ba-BUMP…
Like life, the gag gets funnier every time he does it. Yesterday, he beat me twice, the Jenga pieces tumbling to the table. The ruins of Rome. Or his bedroom.
So here’s to all the things in life that we build up, knock down and build back up again. That’s our nature and our need.
And here’s to all the tingles — the things that make us happy, and by “things” I mean people, especially the two auburn-haired daughters in lockdown on the other side of town.
Yep, dear God, this would’ve been our first wedding day.