Monday was Caleb’s birthday. He is eight years old now. That morning I made breakfast for the family, and then took him to work with me. He did school work at the table in my office, and I did my own work at my computer. He finished first, because he is smarter than me, and a more diligent worker. So he took out a Lego spaceship kit that he got from his great-grandmother, and he put it together. After that, he built a hangar out of office supplies, and then built a paper airplane for me, to keep in the hangar. They’re on my desk now, though Caleb is at home, busy being an eight year-old, doing schoolwork and reading everything he can find and getting bigger by the second, so big that soon I won’t be able to pick him up and carry him to bed at night.
When we finished working we went to lunch, and then to Target so I could buy him a pencil sharpener he’s been wanting. On the way into the store, he walked beside me, and even though my hand was dangling near his arm, he didn’t take it the way he used to do when he was a little chattering boy. Now he is a big boy, and he doesn’t need to hold my hand so much any more.
They keep getting older, if you’re lucky, and so do you. Soon they don’t need you to hold their hands or make their sandwiches or say their bedtime prayers with them. Soon you have all the quiet time you ever wanted, hours and days and weeks of it, interspersed with an occasional phone call, if you’re lucky. Soon they are grown and they are gone.
I have years and years left with them, and I am sure they will grind me down to dust before the last of them leaves, but sometimes I am sad when I think about an empty house. I am happy too, in a way I didn’t expect, because I know one day each of them will have his own house full of youngsters. They will crawl into his bed at all hours, and make messes and fill every room with giggles. He will toil and fear and laugh over each of them just as I have over my own children, and there is nothing better on earth.
I would give them anything, because their happiness is mine, and so I am happy when I think about their houses full of children, because I know that no matter what I do to make them smile now, there is an incomparable joy awaiting them, the joy of their own children. It almost makes it worth letting them go, not that I have a choice, which is probably best, selfish as I am.
That’s a lot of philosophizing for an eight-year birthday, more than I did on my 40th. It’s warranted, I suppose, because while I am simple and shot through with weakness, they amaze me. They come out so small and defenseless, and before long they are throwing crotch-level tackles and asking impossible questions, and healing wounds I didn’t even know were there. We look far and wide for miracles and even rumors of miracles, and forget the miracles among us, the small lives that God is either foolish or hopeful enough to trust us with.
I’ve had eight years with Stephen Caleb, and five with Timothy Eli, and three with William Isaac, and less than one with Isaiah John, and I’ve not appreciated the time as I should. Let me appreciate the years to come. Let them be many, a great many, and forgive me for the time I’ve wasted. Forgive me for overlooking these miracles.
We could fill up a life with thank you and forgive me, couldn’t we? I imagine we should say both every day.