Today my son helped me tear apart a dilapidated deck, knock the nails out of the boards, and make a clean stack of used lumber. Though he asked to be done several times, he stuck with the work until it was completed–and had a lot of fun as well.
I was proud of my son for doing some good, honest work; I was even prouder when he liked the work. Today, I saw a glimpse of the kind of man my son could be.
This reminded me of a John Ciardi poem I came across lately. It captures some of the bittersweet paradoxes of being a parent.
Two Poems for Benn
Silly. All giggles and ringlets and never
about to stop anything without fussing:
get down I say! Do you think I took your mother
to beget me a chimp for my shoulder?
I’m forty, boy, and no weight lifter.
Go find some energy your own size.
Get down!–Well, just once more.
There. Now get down, you baby-fat incubus.
Go ride your imagination. No, I don’t care
how many kisses you’ll write me a check for.
A million? Some banker you are. Still–
a million of anything is a lot of something.
All right. Once more, then. But just once. You hear?
ii. Stopped Suddenly that He is Beautiful
It happens at once and unthought of: what bumbled zooms,
what clattered turns to speech, what sprawled
leaps and becomes a balance on the air.
It is an elegance beyond all choosing.
As an elk is sighted. As a partridge
explodes from under the hunter’s foot.
As a porpoise breaks the surface like light.
As a pear tree one morning blooms, its scroll on scroll
tiered in the sun at perfect random–
Yesterday you were all yolk and today
there are gulls in your laughter, and land and sea
in the light from you, and a name
in the measure of your eyes. Little boy, little boy,
I feel an absence beginning. You are touched already
by the shape of what you will be:
the stranger I go to my grave for and give my house to,
as once it came from a stranger stopped in love
to cry: “My son! My son! I am well traded!”