One of the things my mother left mewhen she died was a large plastic bag full of photographs, a companion to the enormous plastic box of photos she left my brother. When we moved to our current house I packed it away, without much of an idea what I was going to do with it other than keep it around to amuse myself with when I needed to bore the kids with stories of my past.
Re-arranging my computer desk last week, I realised that what I really needed to do was to scan them all in, so that I could burn them to CD. Then I could give a copy to my brother, and I'd have an indestructable collection of photos so I could amuse myself when I needed to bore my grandchildren with stories of my past. This was the first photo I pulled out:
Me, aged somewhere between 3 and 5, I'm guessing. Looking at it, I'm struck by how innocent I am, how there's a look on my face that says I'm just happy to be here, just soaking it all in because everything is wonderful, everything is an adventure and a source of excitement. It's the same look I see on Connor's face, that same happiness. Looking at it, I feel old, and broken down, and sad in a way I don't feel a man with such a happy family life has a right to be. And honestly, I look at myself now: in my mid-30s, in constant pain, with a million responsibilities and a million and one irritants, and I don't know which urge is strongest-- to somehow go back, to put my arm around this little boy and sit him down, tell him of his future and all the pitfalls and pains that will beat him about, and give him the clues and the keys that will turn him into me, mid-30s, pain-free, with the world at my feet and all the power and fearlessness that innocence should become; or to gather my children into one all-embracing hug, look into the innocence and happiness in their faces, and weep for what will become of it.
Or maybe I'm just getting old and mentally flatulent.
And then I do look at the two children I have fathered, and I hear my friends and family telling me how much of me is present in their faces, and I struggle to see it-- genuinely, hopefully, I look at their faces and see nothing of myself. And I wonder how much is projection, and how much is hope? And really, in the end, it doesn't matter. I have 5 children, and only 2 of them have a share in my face. And I would die for the three who have no share in my genetic heritage every bit as much as for those who do. I have 5 children, and I love them all dearly, and as long as I do right by them that is enough.
I should have taken better care of my future, when I was young. At least I have some chance of helping my children do so.
Any Dad in there?