ben vandgrift · on living the dream

'touching base'

i spoke to my son last night, first time in ages. i've been busy. away.

he's getting tall—he looks more like my brother than me, but with a softer chin, a rounder face. almost my height and only 11. he'll keep growing for another couple of years, maybe approach six feet. lean with pete's frame, very blonde and blue. the dice of genetics roll funny sometimes. his hair will darken to the color of mine in the next couple of years, i'm guessing. at least if he doesn't get outside more.

i was showing him around some family pictures; my mom and dad, who he's never met. a rare picture of him and me when he was still eating out of a high chair. carl, who would've been his godfather had timing been different, elaine. my brother and sister. i tried to figure out where he wanted to go—what direction he wanted to take. at the moment, he is just a neovore, learning everything he can, trying to understand the whys and wherefores of the world. like me. chasing ideas in sequence, running them down like a hunting dog until they're cornered and ferocious. it's nice to be spared the trivialities of the day-to-day conversation with him. i'm bad at the simple stuff. it's only when he has the serious questions, the difficult ones his mother and teachers are ill-equipped to handle that he seeks me out. these times i get to do a little fathering, shaping the boy through knowledge, hoping that my guidance is significant, influential. that his mother's constant will is weaker in sum than my own intermittent one.

he's already smarter than she is. head and shoulders. he knows this too. that makes him dangerous, and makes me grateful that he didn't inherit my family's temperament. but i can see myself in him, and not only physically. he is sharp, ahead of the game, never satisfied. eyes that cut. seeking answers to the tough questions. he wants to get to the bottom of things, wants to see the foundation so he can understand how the house is built. he frames his queries in structure, demands answers in kind. makes me proud to be his father.

the hardest question? "why don't we see each other more often?"

it's not an invitation—it's a question, an accusation.

the only answer i give him that i'm not satisfied with:

"it's complicated." there's more to it than that. i try to explain, fail.

and he leaves with the usual parting courtesies. i won't see him again until his backlog of cornered ponderance demands that he find me, spend another few short hours with the old man. touching base.

[ed: my dreams are complicated.]

written: Apr 5 2006