Norma Jean: Carousel of Time

My parents are hard-of-hearing, so I sit jammed up between the front and back seats of the car in order to talk directly into their ears. We ride home from the airport and my gaze freezes onto my mom's bare, and seriously crepey legs; the legs she was once famous for. They're etched with thin blue veins and dotted with age spots. I studied them as we wove through traffic. We managed to discuss weather and the plane trip, yet the jiggling jello-like quality of my mom's legs had me transfixed. The shorts, now of K-Mart variety replaced the "short-shorts" of the 60's, in which she so proudly paraded her once awesome body.I'm sliding back and forth through time, my mind split in three, remembering her in the "cat costume" at Halloween, wearing stilettos. I try to accept the fact that soon these decaying legs and the people in the front seat for so many years of my life, reliable and loving when others fail me, will soon succumb to time completely. This profound reality sent me into a tail-spin of introspection that shaped my vacation.I took my son on walks to my grade school and showed him the spot I kissed my mommy goodbye on my first day of kindergarten. He appeared pensive and amused and asked, "Where was I then, mom?" He wanted me to tell him again how I'd come to have him in Taos, New Mexico, and the story of his actual birth day. He asked if I was going to be "old like Nana." Peeking into the windows of my high school, I saw myself at cheer leading practice in the hall and rushed us over to run around the baseball diamond to distract him from seeing a waterfall of tears running down my cheeks; tears of joy, sorrow, wonder and love. Children have a basic need to know where they fit into the fabric of all these stories and what they mean to the people around them. I share our history with my boy on his fifth birthday.I know my son's every breath, every molecule he puts into his body. I feel his heart and share his imaginings, his wonder and insecurities. I calculate exactly how far he has to go to fly on his own. It's overwhelming and painful. It's my greatest joy and most unrelenting source of fear. It's true love.Four fathers talk about their relationships with their kids. Each says that the moment of responsibility and surrender to one's child brings fulfillment that is indescribable, and all agree, "You don't know the full meaning of fear until you have a child to raise."I write this to anyone who feels isolated, suffocatingly self-involved, or those on the run. Look at the children, stop your internal dialogue and give them 30 minutes, a full day, years of attention. Being present to another is the antidote to insanity, depression and narcissism. Parenting is one fundamental life lesson those blessed with the privilege shouldn't miss. A Happy Birthday to my boy.

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