Future Cole: I apologize for disclosure of anything that might be seen as TMI without asking your permission. When you have kids of your own, you’ll see that the story needed the details.
I had just come home from walking the dogs and could hear the monkey’s mother upstairs, talking to him in that distracted “I don’t think this is the right time to be talking to you, but if I ignore you there might be some hollering” kind of way. I took off my outerwear, made sure the dogs had their post-walk treat, and headed upstairs to see what was up. Apparently our son had decided (after being in bed for a while) that he needed to get up and see if he could take care of any “personal business”. He heard me walk upstairs and share a few words with Mama Monkey, so he called for me.
The bathroom was lit only by the hallway light—an attempt to keep him in sleepy mode. I stepped in and peeked around the corner to see a dim shadow of my little guy perched exactly where I knew he would be, patiently waiting to see if there was any business to be had. “Daddy, you can sit with me,” he indicated. Without waiting for me to accept his invitation, he just started telling stories. I love his stories (you should hear the one about the T-Rex that eats birds and then spits them out and sends them to jail), so as he rambled, I sat down on the cold vinyl floor with my back resting against the bathtub, more or less across from and facing my son.
“…and then I fell, and I hurt myself!” he said.
“Oh no! Where did you do that?” I asked, concerned.
“On the concrete!” he answered. It’s important to note that he wasn’t hurt. He was recalling a time he DID get hurt, from a long long time ago, when he was still learning to walk and run. Something about the memory of that injury has always stuck, although thankfully (or not!) he didn’t develop a fear of running on concrete/asphalt.
“Yeah, that hurt, didn’t it?”. He nodded agreement and became thoughtful for a moment before speaking again.
“Daddy, when you grow down like me and I grow up, I’ll take you to the doctor.” I smiled to myself in the dark as he rolled along. “And you can go on the special bed and you will have a band-aid, and the doctor will look at you with the little light…”
The conversation continued from there, with the monkey asking why was the light so little? and where did the doctor look with that little light? (my mistake was telling him that they use that light to look into ears and noses and so forth; “other holes,” I said. You can guess what he said next.)
But as the conversation continued, that phrase “when you grow down” worked its way into me. What my boy couldn’t see and didn’t know is that my eyes were misting up from a combination of joy and sadness as my mind raced forward to the day that he would indeed have grown up, and I would indeed be “growing down” in my old age. And that there might come a day that he does need to take care of me and take me to a hospital after I fall on some concrete.
It’s impossible to encapsulate all the other thoughts I had as I gazed intently through the darkness at my wonderful little man. Him imagining that it’s possible to “grow down” … me imagining a world where I grow down to be of an age with him as we get up to no good … that he somehow appreciates that we care for him when he’s hurt and he wants to do the same for us … the indescribable amazement in realizing his sense of time and life (and the infinite bright and dark things that go with that) is so different, so fragile, and so fleeting ….
It all swirls around in my head as he tells stories and I manage to make replies. All mixed up and colorful and beautiful in a dimly-lit bathroom of all places. And I had almost never been so happy to be a dad.