Thursday, March 09, 2006


That's when The Realization first occurred to me. Midnight, or close enough to it. It hit me so hard and so fast that the memory of that moment seared into my brain, and here, nearly four decades removed, I can still remember It.

I remember the thought process. I can still remember how I connected the dots, there alone in my bed. I was thinking about Presidents.* Specifically, Washington and Lincoln. For most of my limited academic life, those two were inseperable. The two pillars of American History, forever intertwined. So closely, in fact, that I thought that Lincoln was the second president of the United States. My time line went: 1) Washington; 2)Lincoln; 3)World War II 4) LBJ.

I had just learned that this was not, in fact, the facts. So I laid in my bed, and began to realize the distance from Washington to Lincoln was very much the same as the chronological distance between Lincoln and Johnson. This did something to the Presidents. For the first time, they were not just historical figures in my mind. They were people, with their own pasts and presents. They lived and died. They had mornings, and afternoons, and took walks and thought thoughts. And then they died. They died.

That's when The Realization hit. It hit me with the finality of doom. Because it was doom.

I was doomed.

Life ended.

It was an awful, awful feeling. People really died. Up until then, I knew that there was death, but it happened to other people. Now, I knew it would, one day, happen to me. Life was fleeting, temporary. If Washington and Lincoln--those two great men--could die, what chance did I have at immortality? None. At some point some time, some place, I would cease thinking. I would go away.

I bring this up, because Frederick had his own first midnight. His Realization arrived last night. I had been waiting for it. I knew it would come soon. It didn't make it any easier.

Thirty-some years ago, i sat bolt upright in bed, screaming for my parents. They came to the door. I told them The Realization.

They laughed.

Yes, eventually they hugged me and gave me some comfort. But they laughed.

When my son came to me, I did not laugh. I opened my arms, and let him cry. I told him my story (leaving out the parents laughing part), and just held him and kissed his cheek.

And let him cry.

I wonder if it will be enough. Probably not. Probably nothing will ever be enough to take away that awful, dreadful feeling. But at least I didn't laugh.

And so, another milestone passes. My son, for the first time, knows his own mortality. I told him, every day is a fresh beginning. Every moment is a gift. He seemed ok with that idea.

But things have changed. For his entire life, no matter what, I had always been his All Better. I could fix anything that was really worth fixing.

But I can't fix this. Not really.

At least I didn't laugh.


*some things never change.


Blogger Jessica said...

It was never a crystallized moment like that for me. I went to a lot of funerals as a kid, and they slowly started making sense.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Ever since I was about 18 I've been obsessed with US presidents, I got a book in Florida about them, a massive tome and learnt every president in order and key features of their time.

What does that have to do with death? Well, we live on in people and the bits of us they absorb, so you die but you go on, you know?

Even Warren G. Harding...

2:37 PM  
Blogger Rowena said...

BP, you sound like a brilliant father.

As a kid (and even now, as an adult), I have what I call "death attacks". They usually involve me lying in bed thinking about the notion of death till my brain can't handle it anymore and I have absolutely terrified myself. My heart is pounding, I leap out of bed and scream "no!". Then all of a sudden I snap back into the here and now and start to calm down.

Our brain isn't capable of understanding death. At least not the part of the brain we use day-to-day. I am comforted by tales of near-death experiences, especially those where the person is clinically dead but still reports being able to see themselves on an operating table and so forth. Maybe you can tell your son about people having had these types of experiences to make him feel better.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

I have those moments too, Ro. I know how they feel.

Peace and power to you all.


12:40 PM  

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