Yesterday I was sitting at Starbucks in 1U, surfing the Internet and trying to get my java chip frappuccino to last as long as possible, while a couple with a small baby sat at the next table. The baby was darn cute and kept looking over in my direction and making little smiley faces and cooing sounds. Leen was sitting across from me for a while, looking up from her parenting magazine every few seconds to make her own smiley faces and cooing sounds. At the baby, not me, but it didn’t matter, it’s cute either way. Then she went off strolling around because she said she needed to go for a walk, but I could see through that ruse. She’s ‘nesting’ these days, so I knew she’d be in the nearest baby-stuff store running up the credit cards. So there I sat, sucking air from the bottom of that java chip frappuccino, thinking about my wife and babies and all that stuff.
Actually, I’ve been thinking about that all the time lately. About the fact that there really is a baby in there, that soon he’s going to come out and we’re going to be parents. Sure, people have been doing this stuff for as long as there have been people, and maybe a lot of parents-to-be snap out of this whole oh-my-God-we’re-gonna-be-parents thing after a short time. But we’re still gaping at each other several times a day and shaking our heads in wonder; we’re still getting all giggly and excited and silly. I think that’s great. It shows I’m keeping a promise I made to myself a long time ago: to never lose that sense of awe and wonder that children have. I think we really go downhill when we toss that out. Some people trumpet that old saying, ‘when I became a man, I put away childish things.’ But I like to point out that there’s a difference between putting something away and throwing it away.
I may be in touch with my inner child, but that hasn’t prevented me from thinking about getting old. I’ve been thinking a lot about aging (or, if you’re British, ageing). I never used to think about it, but ever since that evening in 2002 when I was walking down a Halifax street and an acute awareness of the passing of time hit me, I’ve thought about it at length. When I was 19, it felt like it had been an eternity since I was 14; suddenly I was 28 and it felt like only a short time had passed since I was 23. I instantly became more aware of my own mortality. A few short weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer, and it became impossible not to think about that end we will all face, especially as mine seemed to have a possibility of being scheduled a little earlier. I remained upbeat and did end up beating that cancer, but in the years since I’ve kept that sense of fascination for the aging process, not to mention a real appreciation of the time I’ve been given and the determination to use it wisely, be grateful for it, and always cherish it.
And cherish it I should. According to a recent article over at the CBC (like the BBC, but with more ice hockey stories), it’s all downhill after about 30. The optimist that I am, I’ll continue to cling to the ‘you’re only as young as you feel’ thing and draw inspiration from all those folks who age gracefully and seem younger than they are. Still, it’s hard not to feel a sense of urgency when I read an article that tells me I’m already well on my way to being old and decrepit and…well, dead. Especially when I’m about to take on parenthood.
A couple of weekends ago, Leen and I did something a little stupid: we went to Mid-Valley Megamall to see the movie Click. Despite what a lot of critics might have said, I don’t think seeing that movie was stupid. What was stupid was the fact that we voluntarily drove our car to the Mid-Valley Megamall on a Sunday afternoon. Anyone who knowingly points their car in the direction of such a parking nightmare just for the heck of it, rather than out of absolute necessity, is stupid. And paying 80 ringgit to sit in the ‘gold class’ cinema is stupid too, especially if you’re there to see a light comedy. Something heavy that runs for three hours and leaves you rattled for a week or two might have been worth 80 ringgit, but an Adam Sandler movie? Anyway, I really don’t think the movie was as stupid as critics said it was. What do critics know, anyway? They blasted M. Night Shamayalam’s Lady in the Water too, but I liked it and I think they only hated it because the only death in the whole movie was that of the stuffy, boring critic who didn’t know jack about movies. I felt the same way about Click that I did about Lady in the Water: it’s entertainment, so I simply allowed myself to be entertained, something film critics seem unable to do.
Don’t get me wrong, Click didn’t have me yelling, “Oscar!!!Oscar!!!” nor did I even whisper it, or even think it. But it was entertaining, if you are the type of person who would be entertained by the sight of Adam Sandler freezing time so he can jump up on his boss’s desk and let a wicked fart rip right in his face. Surprisingly, the movie was actually a little moving. A little. Yeah, Leen cried, but considering she’d also cried a couple of hours earlier while we were looking for a parking spot, I think hormones played a bigger part than Adam Sandler’s acting. But really, there was something…moving about that movie, if not that it was great (it wasn’t) then perhaps the fact that it touched upon my heightened awareness of the passage of time and the need to live well and live right.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a guy who really wishes he could have a universal remote with which he can control everything. He only means the TV, DVD player, etc., but after a late-night visit to Bed Bath & Beyond and a meeting with a creepy-as-ever Christopher Walken, Sandler’s character ends up with a remote that he can use to freeze time and, best of all, fast-forward through unpleasant activities such as his daily traffic ordeal (hmmm…), arguments with his wife, and sicknesses. He’s loving it at first, but soon he begins to fast-forward through times he didn’t even mean to. It turns out his remote will remember his preferences, so he soon finds himself skipping over years of his life. He misses watching his children grow up and, since he’s on ‘autopilot’ during each fast-forward, he loses his wife too because during what he experiences as a fast-forward he is actually going through life in real time but like some sort of zombie. We watch him age, and he does so far from gracefully. It’s not a great movie, but watching this guy get older and older, while his whole life flashes by, really struck a chord. It can be scary to see your life passing you by like that. I know, I’ve been there. My father and I went nine years without speaking, a period that only ended when I did the most courageous thing I’ve ever done: I showed up at his door. I was just tired of being tired of us missing out on each other’s lives. And I was afraid we would get to a point where we’d missed it all and couldn’t turn back. So I just showed up at his door, despite the doubts and fears I still had. I’m proud of that. It took balls. Beating cancer? Nah, that only took one.
Now I’m about to embark on the amazing journey known as parenthood, and I’ve got to try to do it right. We stumble sometimes, and I know I probably will. But I’ll give it my best. I don’t know if Leen and I will be the best parents in the world, but I know we’ll try. And I’ve really got to try to take good care of myself, something I haven’t been doing lately. After all, I won’t be around forever. That’s OK, as long as I use what time I have wisely and really try to enjoy it. I think I can do that. After all, I may be slowly fading away like everyone else, but part of me will always look at the world with a child’s eyes, right up till the very end, whenever that may be. For now, I’m just trying to imagine what happens when someone who looks at the world through a child’s eyes actually looks into the eyes of his own child for the first time. Whoa. Excuse me while I try to wrap my head around that.