Jack and Cheese

The blue plastic plate makes the whole display simply “pop” with glam and grace. Who else but a seven year old would think to make such a display of boring into fabulous with the simple addition of color.

 He takes the cheese and unwraps the red packaging, laying the two small circular portions perfectly on the platter. What meats? Of course a lovely helping of Genoa salami and turkey breast deli meat. This is the protein portion of the meal, the meal the before mentioned seven year old has planned out and is eagerly happy to be serving. Pizza and hamburgers were the initial thoughts, but after a few minutes of debate on the finer merits of what was available in the refrigerator, the ever loving charcuterie board of “amore” was decided upon. I seconded the plan.

And as always, no board is complete without the lovely display of meat, cheese and fresh “kinda” fruit. So the ample portion of blue berries and clementines were introduced. Apples and bananas were considered, but vetoed at the last minute due to the “messiness” of such things, an oxymoronic gesture considering the nature of seven year old boys.  I am not a chef, but I have to give the kid credit, he did a helluva job of figuring out what the perfect idea of a Monday night dinner should be. That, or he just got lucky.

He is drinking milk. I choose a more traditional Chianti to go with the whole Italian vibe we are trying to produce here. The only thing we don’t have is Sinatra or Martin playing in the background, but hey, that may be a bit over the top for a kid trying to figure out the finer points of dining in. Besides, I am not sure Sinatra would go with the Jurassic Park cartoon that is currently being played on the television. I could be wrong.

Jack is growing up, and I know this. He is seven and I am on my way to seventy, and we don’t have much time is left. Sure we may have plenty of time in some people’s opinions, but we don’t have time to set the stage for traditions and memories. I may get hit by a train tomorrow and all this poor kid will have to remember me by is an old picture of us and stories my friends will tell him, stories that will not satisfy his curiosity of who his dad really was. 

My childhood is filled with visions fo spaghetti and roast for Sunday dinner. Father’s Day reunions with the craziest bunch of paesanos I know. My life is not long, so I have to give him the best of what I can right now. We talk baseball and music. He paints and draws, and has a pretty wicked arm if I don’t mind saying so myself. I have to set the stage for my exit now, because I don’t know when my exit will be, and the last thing I want is to be gone and leave my kid empty handed. He will have questions and I have the answers now, so I have to give them to him here, in this form, even though he doesn’t even know yet what to ask. 

But I do. I know what he will want to know because I lost a dad before I had a chance to ask the questions, and he didn’t have a chance to answer them. I hope my kid doesn’t suffer the same loss. 

Sometimes the greatest tragedy we parents do for our kids and not to let them see the human side of us. All they know is us as the parent, not us as the human. 

And so we create a charcuterie board. We sing songs. We play catch and we say prayers. The worst things a parent can do is everything and leave nothing. I can’t leave  my kid behind without a little something to let him know who I was before him, and the person I became after him. 

And so I write. Stories of imaginary tales and stories of me and my thoughts. One day my kid will be old enough to read the things I write and hopefully have a better understanding of who I was a man, not just as a dad. 

One day he will get a phone call, like the one I got twenty years ago, saying that you will never have a chance to talk to your old man again. All the questions you had will remain unanswered, all the dreams you had will remain unmet. 

One day my kid will have to bury me. That is a sad but real truth that we all must come to terms with. I hope between now and then I can give him wonderful memories of the love I have for him and the person I hoped to be. He will look back at the crazy and sometimes oversharing posts that I have made and get a sense of who his old man was as a person, not just as a dad. 

Right now, he is asleep, dreaming of whatever wonderful places seven year olds dream of, but one day he will be old, like me. He will have the same thoughts and dreams and fears that an adult will have, and hopefully he will have the same loving experiences too.

My kid is small on his way to being big. I am alive on my way to being dead, and I need to give him more of me than I can possible manage. 

The world is a wonderful, magical place. I need him to know that and I need him to believe in that. I will do my best while I am here to give him a chance to be the best version of himself he can be, because Lord knows, it has taken me a lifetime to figure myself out. 

We make popcorn and watch cartoons. We play catch and kick balls. One day, hopefully our conversations will move from silly to serious and back to silly. I don’t know how long I will be here for that. I am reminded of people my age passing, and not able to pass any more knowledge or memories on to their kids. So I write. So I coach and make messes and make mistakes. 

I am a broken human, and I need my kid to see that. I need him to see my struggle with bad and to understand my fight to make it good.

I am not perfect by all means, but I hope what I provide is a perfect memory to him and to all who have ever loved me.

The worst thing we can do is to go on thinking that we have forever to make things good, but forever is on the other side of this life, not this side. 

We have time. I have time to make pancakes for breakfast and give kisses on the neck. I have time to write stories of who I am just in case I don’t have time to tell him later. I have time to talk to you while my child sleeps peacefully in the other room, because I may not ever get another chance to talk to you again in this life. 

I have time now to write the stories that live in me, because I hope my kid has the time later to read them and smile.

What will your legacy be for your kids? Do you have time now to make tomorrow’s memories?