Chapter 2: My phantom self

I‘m not sure when it happened first, but parts of me have started to disappear.

These parts, well, they are not physical parts, but parts of who I am. My music. My writing. My free time. My will to imagine and play. Freedom. Sweet freedom.

Imagine yourself beginning life as a large block of granite when you were born. As you got older, the granite started to take more shape and definition, because as people chipped away at it, it became you. A nose appeared. Eyes grew out of sockets which were once flat planes. Cheekbones slowly erupted from the surface. Hair formed and details emerged that became the story of who you are today.

There’s a point at which the chipping away becomes more subtractive than additive, if that makes sense. It’s the difference between building character and altering it. Maybe a few wrinkles here, some sagging there. The hairline recedes. Eyes sink further into their sockets. The facial expression becomes that of worry and stress in lieu of wonder and curiosity.

This is how I’ve felt as I’ve grown more into adulthood. Perhaps it began the moment I realized I was going to be a father. That looming sense of responsibility, the desire to be a good role model. The feeling that one’s fate is close to catching up with him. The need to wear glasses. The humility. Or humiliation, as the case may be.

My kids have helped me immensely to keep things in perspective by constantly reminding of just how human I am. Not too long ago, I picked my son up from school. A precocious six-year-old who has worn glasses since he was two, he noticed quickly that I, too, was wearing glasses.

He asked, “Daddy, why are you wearing your glasses today?”

“Because it helps me keep better posture when I’m working at the computer, so I don’t have to hunch over to see things on the screen,” I replied, thinking this was the end of the topic.

“Well,” he posited, “if you’re going to wear those glasses all the time, you’d better get some that look good on you.”

I could do little more than laugh out loud. My son had officially burned me. It was done in such a matter-of-fact nature that there was no maliciousness to it, but it was little more than amusing to me, because, really, I look smashing in my new glasses. Don’t I?

Regardless, it wasn’t my first brush with the brutal honesty that kids can often serve up, unpunished. This has taken many forms over the last several years, but I believe the most memorable one was when my then two-year-old daughter looked up to me in the shower and declared, “Daddy, you have boobies.”

I have to admit, I was embarrassed, in denial—and dare I admit—stunned speechless by her accusation. Yes, I have put on some pounds in my adult years, but could I really have crossed that line where some extra baggage, as my MySpace profile so delicately describes it, to full-on man-boobs?

I tried to correct her, the two-year-old, by countering with, “Boys don’t have boobies, they have pecs.”

I was almost pleading.

She leveled her eyes at me, displaying a stern expression like a school teacher calling a student out for cheating on an exam.

“Daddy. You have boobies,” she reiterated.

This last sentence was spoken with a certainty and firmness like she knew there was no other truth. In her two-year-old wisdom, of all things she knew to be real—Barbie dolls, Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street and candy—she knew this one fact more concretely than any other: I had, in fact, grown boobies.

It’s this level of honesty that children are amazing at. They see it. They call it. There is nothing to debate other than the ethics, politeness and timing of their remarks. They mean no malice. They are not trying to hurt your feelings, but they are speaking the truth—even when we are trying to hide it.

And, the truth is, I am not a kid anymore.

While parts of me are disappearing, other parts (read: boobies and glasses) are appearing. Sadly, the one thing that seems to be disappearing most of all is time.

It’s time that I used to spend writing music, going to band practice, seeing shows, trying to write anything worth reading, drawing, experimenting, taking road trips with my wife, or even doing absolutely nothing. These are the parts of me that are quickly disappearing and I don’t know if or when I will get them back.

Is the loss of these pieces worth the trade-off? I can say, without a doubt, yes.

But I can’t say it’s not hard as hell to let them go. It’s like losing a loved one, a pet you’ve had since childhood or at the very least, your favorite guitar. You dream it or they are going to come back some day. The dreams are so realistic and heart-wrenching. You may even think you hear their voices sometimes, only to turn around and see there is nobody there. It’s my phantom self, gone in exchange for a career, family functions, time with my kids and those other numerous responsibilities that seem to creep into my daily schedule for which I can find no means of control.

I’m an adult now. The extras have been chipped away, almost weathered away over the years, leaving time for the essentials.

And, I have boobies.

1 Comment

  1. inger
    Jan 11, 2008

    in the immortal words of Utah Phillips:

    ‘I respect kids.
    I love especially little kids. Little kids are assholes. But they’re their own assholes, see, it’s when they, when you grow up and become somebody else’s asshole we’re all in trouble, you know, like bankers or B-52 pilots and such.’

    sounds like you’re raising some seriously high-quality, grade A assholes there. and i mean that in the best way. someday i hope to have some assholes of my own; until then, i’ll have to be humiliated vicariously through you.

    keep writing, this is great stuff!

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