(*Author’s Note: I know this isn’t a take on sports. I get it. But when everything I do is now viewed through the prism of being a Dad, sports and life kind of blend together. The things I thought I knew, the things I know I know, and all of the things I learn every day from my children are all just kind of blurring together for me, now, like the food coloring my son so gleefully mixes together in his Junior Scientist kit.)
It’s a funny thing, flipping calendar pages.
When I grew up, my Mom always had this giant calendar slung up over a single nail that had been haphazardly hammered into the basement door. This crooked honeycomb of dates and times, people and places, was as wild as it was organized; a gridded juxtaposition. There were scribbles and notes, arrows, and annotations. Much like life, a lot of the good stuff had spilled out into the margins.
But always, always, it kept turning.
Page after page. Folded up. Torn off. Tucked behind.
“National Monuments Sponsored by US Bank” or “Scenes From Nebraska by __insert corporate sponsorship here_____”. They came and went like the leaves on the big oak tree that shaded our house and that held the rope I used to climb until my hands were raw from Indiana Jones impressions. They peeled off and disappeared, fleeting moments of jam-packed summers and winters spent out on basketball courts in YMCA reversible jerseys.
It’s a funny thing, flipping calendar pages. As I slow down, they seem to speed up.
It feels like only a few flips of those pages ago, the earth finished its final few miles of rotation and landed on one of the most important days of my life.
My son’s calendar page is June 27th, 2012.
That calendar may have been flipped, that orbit long spun, but I don’t need a DeLorean and a kooky doctor with wild hair to transport myself back to the day he was born. And those calendar pages? His and mine and ours? They are stitched together, bound by the tightly woven fabric of father and son, in a way that I’m still only starting to understand, has kept my father so connected to me.
All 61 months of his story, have finally reached the last page where I can be counted as a full co-author. My son will be going to kindergarten in about 2 weeks. His story, this next page turn: it’s all his. That period that was at the end of the past fiver years of sentences in the story of my little boy: they’re now an ellipses.
And I’m terrified. And I’m overjoyed. And my helium heart seems hellbent on floating up and out the front of my slack-jawed mouth as I try to figure out just how this could all happen.
I remember when I was about 16-years-old, my family took me to Zion National Park in Utah. While we were there, we climbed to the top of Angel’s Landing, a 5,790 foot rock formation that is approximately 5,789 feet higher than you can get in the flatlands of my home state. The last few switchbacks of the climb were mere feet from dizzyingly high dropoffs and I was compelled to use both of my hands on the chains hammered into the rock alongside the trail, presumably to help keep you from stumbling off the side to your Wiley E. Coyote style demise.
At that height, after the long and sweaty climb to the top, I was immediately and viscerally gripped with a kind of panoramic euphoria. It was a wild mixture of stunned inner silence, unchecked fear at looking out and realizing that all it would take is one momentary devolution of my inner ear’s equilibrium to turn me into a horror story told around campfires in Southern Utah for all of eternity, and the 4-chambered palpitations in my heart that seemed to be communicating on a direct wavelength with my mind. It was the rarest of times when the chemical reactions in my body seemed to harmonize with the rest of my body.
It was beautiful. And It was terrifying.
It reminds me of right now. Of the sublime metamorphosis occurring before my very eyes with each new step my son takes. Of our sleepy, giggling, smiling little pile of chunky limbs and diaper-clad thighs that has steadily become his own little man. I feel that same snare-drum-roll of my heart whenever I see him suddenly demonstrate how ready he is. That same heart-twisting, carnival ride of my internal organs that has my adrenal glands doing back handsprings.
I know he will be fine. Will I?
I know he will excel. I know that he is growing. I know that the passage of time as deeply tragic as it is inescapably beautiful. And I know that the moment he turns his back to me and walks into the door of his new classroom, his appropriately metaphorical Transformers backpack waving goodbye as it swings on his shoulders like that calendar on my mother’s yellow door, he’ll take me right back up the side of that Rock; right to Angel’s landing once again, thousands of feet up, even if my suddenly heavy eyes are only about 5’7″ above sea level.
Sports and fatherhood are inherently bound together for me. I have written about particular brand of personal alchemy at length, but this time it’s the latter not the former that consumes my mind. It drives me to tell any parents, any dads, or even people who have one parcel of their heart’s metronome set in time to any one else: grab someone you love close. Feel the moment, the now, the here, and let it wash over you.
It’s a funny thing, flipping calendar pages.
Put together enough of them, you’ve got a pretty damn good story.
Don’t forget to stop and read it along the way.