I hadn’t considered this question in some time, but a few weeks ago, before parent-teacher conferences at our school, a colleague I don’t often enough get the opportunity to speak with often asked me this question.
I am certain that I fell into my now-common middle distance, eyes up and then to the right gaze, and sighed in contemplation. I guess that has become my “I’m thinking” preparatory set as I deliberate the big stuff. I considered options for the few moments the normal flow of conversation allows. I began to give voice to something, stopped, and began anew.
“I guess I am most worried he won’t find a mate.”
My colleague, one of the quickest wits of our time and a genuine all-around decent guy, replied, “Yeah, but doesn’t everyone worry about that for their child?”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right, that’s true,” was my not-at-all snappy comeback, looking up and to the right again, “but he’s going to take so much more time. He’s going to have to find someone extra-special, someone so patient, someone who will help him, who will wait for him.”
I can’t quote the rest of our talk, but I remember telling him I worried for the day my son wakes up and isn’t able to walk. Something he does now will become something he never does again, and while that is true of each of our children, each of us for that matter, I know my son’s trajectory is a little more direct and brief. I’ve recorded what I believed was his first last, the rock climbing wall, and though it was the first last, it is certainly not the worst last. The thought of my child circling a day on the calendar, marking the first day he can no longer walk, is simply too much. So I don’t think about it. Much. As much.
Last week the world learned that Stephen Hawking had passed away, decades after his disease suggested he should be crossing the finish line. Decades! I felt like this quote from his brilliant mind was a beautiful fit for what had been racing laps around my grey matter. He hit all the right notes in this bit of advice to his own children, and I’m going to remember it for mine too.