The other day while I was busy loading the dishwasher, my 16 month old son ambled into the kitchen to, among other things, shake the living daylights out of the bottom rack of the dishwasher. I gave him this puzzled expression which he answered with an ear to ear grin. After proceeding to tell him to stop and removing his hands, which I am convinced have magnets or some other sticky property to them, he turned around and grabbed hold of the spigot to the nearby water cooler. To my disbelief, with one hand he leaned in and began pulling on it until it threatened to fall over on top of him, all the while smiling up at me with this “Watch this, Dad!” look on his face.
Now, I didn’t scold him or yell at him because I know that this is just par for the course with toddlers. What vexed my mind was the fact that destruction is the default setting for children. At every opportunity Avery is plotting (as much as a toddler can plot) his next target. He yanks down tablecloths. Throws toys in the toilet. Smacks the picture window in the living room. Mashes the keyboard on my laptop. Bangs on the piano with balled up fists. Pulls every single baby wipe out of the container. And, if allowed, will unravel the toilet paper roll until it sits in a gloriously unruly pile on the floor.
Why can’t a child’s default be the restoration of chaos? Wouldn’t it be awesome if at every turn kids were turning off lights, picking up toys or unloading the dishwasher? But no… these things have to be taught. The process of which requires repetition, demonstration and ongoing discussion. Even so, some kids STILL don’t seem to get it. There are certain things I’ve come to expect of a toddler that I don’t think I should still have to worry about with my teenage boys. While they’ve mastered taking out the trash, they still don’t seem to mind sleeping a bedroom so funky and piled with clothes that you’d need a map just to get from the door to the closet.
Someday all of my children will know the joy of keeping things clean and taking care of their possessions. Well, at least that’s my prayer. Until then, a man can dream. And in the meantime, I’ll keep rescuing my youngest son from any potential self-inflicted calamity.
A few years ago in April, a close, dear friend of mine lost his youngest brother who was only 31 years old. This came after losing their mother to a long battle with cancer on New Year’s Eve the year prior.
The unofficial cause of his death: A Broken Heart
See, he was very close to his mom. He and his older sister lived together, and their mom came to stay with them during her final days.
They both would help take care of her. Whatever she needed, they would provide. Loving and attentive to the very end. Before she passed, he would sleep on the floor next to her bed. So it’s no surprise that he took her death very hard. At one point he admitted to being nearly unable to function at all.
One night when his sister returned home from visiting their older brother, she found him slumped over the steering wheel of his car with the engine still running. What’s remarkable is that he’d spoken to someone on the phone just 10 minutes prior. In the short period of time between that phone call and his sister arriving home, they are guessing he must have had a heart attack. It caused me to marvel to what degree grief can diminish a person’s will to live. Even unto death. I don’t know… but I do know that there is no proven remedy for the loss of a loved one. No medication or certain type of clothes to wear. No drink or remote destination. There is only time, comfort and the healing support of those who love you.
This made me contemplate my own mortality and the things I hold dear. It’s why I’ve made it a point to study the contours of my wife’s smiling face and commit them all to memory. Because these are the treasures that remain.
Categories: family, personal, relationships, stories
Tags: brother, cancer, death, friend, heart, heart attack, love, mortality, mother, sister, son