I wrote to my sons, “Sometimes Dad likes a little encouragement too,” as a preface to a longer message I shared from a friend, of which this is an excerpt:
“I’m certain you’ve had conversations like this with them throughout their lives. I can picture you getting on the floor, eye level with them as toddlers, explaining things to them, asking them questions like, “What do you think about that, Gabe?” and listening to their thoughts and answers and theories and stories and imaginations and questions.”
Our youngest responded:
“I did bring you three cookies the other day🤷♂️. Sorry we don’t give you much encouragement Dad. I am very thankful for you.”
I think it was 2007 or ’08 that the livingroom carpet which creeped into the diningroom was torn up and replaced with hardwood. Probably long before that, I remember passing out exhausted, lying on that carpet, and awakening to a quiet toddler, rearranging Legos near my face. Or two superhero figures soaring over the back of my head as I lay with a corner of my lips curled toward my twinkling eye.
Maybe I talked myself to sleep, or maybe I watched one of them act out their answers to my soaring questions, as I sprawled out with the carpet, at their eye level. And years before that, a son or I opened eyes, level with the other, as he lay on my chest rising and falling with each life-giving breath—in a bed, on a sofa, or on that same carpet.
How can this friend, whom I did not meet until a decade later, picture these things, merely by seeing me talk to today’s young men—toddlers then?
Two decades earlier, I sat on the top step in an apartment swimming pool while a foot away Joseph frolicked in the water like only toddlers can, breathlessly, with excited abandon, to peril oblivious. Feeling safe, unconsciously, under the gaze of his Dad, who remembers what happened next in slow motion.
Dad, standing in waist-high water a distance from the bottom step, mesmerized by his son’s joyous curiosity, watched every small motion as Joseph descended the steps with his eyes wide open throughout it all, soon standing on the bottom of the pool, the water’s surface ascended a foot above his head. He never closed his eyes, even after Dad scooped him out, sat on the top step, propped his toddler onto a knee, and they gazed squarely eye to eye, question in both.
Then Joseph grinned.
Yesteryear and today. Whence my friend’s pictured scene. That’s how we make things, my sons and I. Even near drowning.
“Sorry we don’t give you much encouragement Dad.”
Neil D. 2021-01-14