Earlier this week, I was playing with Atlas and it felt like the time couldn’t be sweeter. There are times when you’re playing with your child where time seems to stop, or you wish that it could – because the moment would last a little bit longer.
Most mornings with him are like that. He wakes up and has his ‘morning voice’ where he talks slowly and seems to still be waking up. We’ll sit in bed and talk about his dreams, watch the “squi-durls” outside of my window and look for birds in the nest only a few feet away from the window.
Just like the baby birds that hatched in the nest will soon fly away, moments with a toddler feel fleeting in nature.
I’ve said before that ‘parenting is a lifetime of goodbyes’ and I haven’t seen many scenarios where this truth isn’t painfully evident. When Atlas took his first step, I know it was time to say goodbye to the days where he would scoot around on his hands and knees. Every time he wears his underpants and ‘pees like a man’ in the toilet is one day closer to saying goodbye to diapers.
I don’t quite know how to describe the feeling you have when you’re saying ‘hello’ to new things and ‘goodbye’ to others, other than saying that it is the definition of bittersweet.
Not all times with toddlers feel ‘good’ because that’s also a stage where they are notoriously rebellious, bad listeners and seem to have more of a mind of their own than in doing what their parents ask them to do. They make messes, scream randomly and enjoy wiping their boogers on your face. Some of these things I could comfortably do without. Yet, they’re all part of the package that comes with being a parent.
With Atlas, I’m thankful there are more fun times than difficult. Yet, even after the times where he’s more difficult than others, it’s always heartbreaking to pack him in the car and drop him off. It’s one of the hardest things about being a single parent; having to regularly say goodbye to your own flesh and blood, knowing they will be a little older and different the next time you see them.
I think that all things in life are full of change, and they’re supposed to. Yet, that doesn’t make change an easier pill to swallow.
After my Dad passed away, I fully understood what it meant to wish for one more moment with somebody you love, as well as the desire to have them in your present day. There isn’t single experience I have when working in my garage where I don’t wish Dad were there with me. The closest thing I have to his presence is when I smell my tools, because that reminds me of the time we spent together. Yes, I smell my tools.
With Atlas, I feel this way a lot. Going back to the morning where we watched the birds – we then went into his room for nursery playtime. Every time I looked at him, my heart melted a bit. Wearing black sweatpants and an oversized thermal shirt, he was the definition of cute and cuddly.
Picking up my guitar, I started to play ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters…
And I wonder
When I sing along with you
If everything could ever be this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
My timer went off. It was time to drop off Atlas.
As I dropped him off, I opened my windows to get one more look as I pulled away. I saw him smiling and waving. The days together felt like they had passed in a flash, and suddenly I was back to the stone cold quiet of driving by myself. I wept the whole way home.
You never get used to being a single parent, because it’s not something you’re supposed to get used to, any more than being without any semblance of sadness when a loved one passes away.
Some things in life are supposed to hurt, I think. And that’s ok, as difficult as it is to accept. All things come and go and it is our memories, moments and small blips of time where we feel love that matter the most in life.
This afternoon, I was sitting down to finish some project work when I looked down at my phone and saw one message:
“Austin passed away this morning.”
Austin was one of my neighbors, and the message came from his wife. Immediately I called her and got the story. Only 36 years-old, he had suffering from cardiac arrest and passed suddenly while traveling on a work trip to Houston. Only a few weeks ago, Austin and I had talked about getting BBQ at a local restaurant.
Austin and how wife were always kind to both me and Atlas. They bought him Christmas presents last year and even went so far as to knock on my door ahead of a freezing night to give me the things I needed to wrap my hose pipes to keep them from freezing/bursting.
Admittedly, I am still wrestling with the news and it hurts to think that he and I won’t ever get that BBQ and a beer and have ‘man time’ together.
Life is short. Make it count.