I woke from a peculiar dream. In my dark home, my oldest son was coughing.
I brought him some medicine and sweetened iced tea to settle him back down.
He’d started to cry during his violin lesson because he was thirsty. His teacher asked me for help, I was sitting in the store area of the shop. I walked in to my son’s lesson room and indicated to him to take a deep breath and finish his lesson. He did.
A woman violin instructor, of Slavic descent, asked me if he was my son. I said yes. She told me he is very good, and asked if he practices every day. I said no, I try to get him to, but he’s little and she cut me off.
“No. He is not little. I have students who are 3 and 4 and 5. He is 6. He’s practically an adult.”
I didn’t feel so bad for being hard on him about his lesson and making him finish. I told him today that he would one day be a man. That he’d be the one who a son would ask the questions. That he’d need to know what to do and how he’d need to be ok with uncertainty, doubt, and generally sucky things. I told him that he needed to be strong for those times when I am not there. (I also told him I wouldn’t tell his mom about his crying so hopefully she doesn’t check the blog today.)
My father left when I was just about my son’s age. There were no late night rescues. No fishing trips. No discussions of maleness and how to be. I had to figure much of that out largely on my own. Now I’m the Dad. Finding my way in the dark. I just want to be the father I didn’t have to my kids. So much of who I am and what I value is a direct result of how much my own father failed me.
My dream was like many I have. It was my cousin who’s recently decided to marry his girl. We were walking down a hallway together, it was wet and our shoes were squeaking. He told me he was going away and that we weren’t kids anymore. That’s when I woke to my son coughing. I got up and got him a drink. I couldn’t help think of my younger six year old self in that first year when Dad was gone. What it must have been like to wake up in the dark and only Mom was there. How scary that must have been for her. How surprised I am now to be unable to remember those days with any kind of clarity.
When my boy is my age now I will be 58. I hope he grows up to be the kind of man who doesn’t have to stare at the computer and pour his heart out in the middle of the night to make sense of it. I hope he can get up, get the child a drink and just go back to bed like a normal person.