Alex left for his annual two weeks of camp in West Virginia this morning. The call that he'd safely arrived came in the early afternoon, but I missed it while emptying a shed to be demolished tomorrow. As I removed a scooter and a Ripstick that he'd outgrown and passed along to his sister, I was thinking about how he has also outgrown much of what he once needed from me: a hand to steady his bike, someone to catch or to pitch, a companion for nature walks. On Friday he and I hiked the Billy Goat trail with a friend. Am I reading too much into the day when I note that for much of the outing he was far ahead and urging us to catch up?
Katherine needs her parents, but not as Alex once did. His night terrors began at two. She's had only one nightmare, more from a sense of obligation (I sometimes think) than because she worries. He had bravura; she possesses quiet confidence. When at dinner I told her of the memory that I am about to write in part III, she asked me to step outside the house with her, hugged me, and surprised me with a nuzzle and a lick. "Always remember that," she laughed. I will.
On Father's Day I inevitably think about an ordinary hour I spent with my father. He asked me to accompany him on some errands -- unusual, because I come from a large family, and errands were his escape from domestic chaos. We went to the hardware store to buy nails. Afterwards he bought me a cupcake at the bakery. We sat in the car together as I ate it. I was seven. I don't remember that he said anything to me (he was a quiet man), but it seemed like the best day of my youth.
I phoned my dad this morning and he spoke of the steak he was going to enjoy and the restful day he will spend. Just before the end of the call he mentioned the special bond we share because I am his oldest son. He has made this statement a few times in the past, and it is touching, but it doesn't seem true. My father has always been inscrutable to me. I have often felt that I inhabit a world unknown. That distance is not bad, even if it has been painful; I would not be myself without that space.
The love I have for my children is vast beyond expression; I have no words for it. But I wonder about what bonds unite, the distance or closeness that is there, the chasms that open so slowly that you don't see them until your child is a teenager a mile ahead of you, the phone call or video call I will have with them in some future year when I will reminisce about the past we shared and they will lie to me and say that yes, we have always been so close.