Henry will be two in a few days and I sure am proud of the kid.
He can talk a pretty wild blue streak for a young gun his age.I have whole conversations with him where I understand everything he's saying, and him me. I don't even have that with most adults I engage with.
Plus, without trying to sound too immodest, my boy is damn good, I say, damn good, at Rewind Walking™, which is that reckless but graceful system of sliding down the steps backward on your belly as if you were a country ham being slid down an icy hill in like 1913 Appalachia.
In the living room, after I have a beer or two, sometimes I bust out the soccer ball and the kid sure can kick. Yeah, sometimes he misses the ball outright and does a Charlie Brown/Lucy deal where he lands on his tiny soft ass on the floorboards, but when he does connect, buddy, I get the hell out of the way; I'm still pretty fluid for a guy my age, but I'm no Liverpool goalie or anything.
Oh my boy. You sure do make your pappy beam.
But you are a mystery to me, too.
Sometimes I swear, I'll be standing there looking at you just quietly gnawing on the side of a cracker or a Matchbox muscle car and my heart does a little flutter that sort announces to the rest of me that I sort of run out of bravado and machismo and tough guy sauce when you're around.
Down in me, I feel twittery when I watch you quietly staring up at Patrick Star, your short brown eyes glittering at the screen.
I sigh, a little love sigh, I guess. I'm man enough to admit that.
You hear me sigh.
Then, to be perfectly honest: I don't know what the hell happens.
Your eyes swing around and you spot me spotting you and you fling your weird snack towards the wall and, I don't know if it's the fact that I surprised you or that you wanted to have a little Henry Time without Dad doggin' you that un-glues the cute kid wrapping paper from the package in the playroom to reveal a two-and-a-half-foot Kodiak grizzly with an attitude.
Maybe it's the possibility that with all that new circuitry lighting up a collision of sparks behind the thin walls of Outer Henry these days, the expanding horizon of feelings and universal truths and realizations and internal ponderings going off up in your Air Traffic Control Tower and down in your Boiler Room sometimes end up driving you stark-raving Raccoon -With-Rabies crazy?
Either way, when you snap, little man, you sure do snap.
It's actually kind of beautiful.
Here you come barreling across the room at me and I think to myself,"Here we go."
"Noooooooooooooooooooooo!," you scream as a twist of winter snot shoots out of you nose like locomotive steam.
I honestly pity your tender heart as you charge me; I know it sounds weird and all but I sort of picture a baby clam doing push-ups in a one-bulb gym and that's what I imagine your wee heart to look like down beheind your ribs when you are this freaking upset.
I watch you move with the quickness and for whatever reason, I am looking forward to you getting over here.
And then...dammit to hell: you fall over the pink beanbag on your way across the long battlefield of the playroom floor and I just want to run out there and rescue you from yourself, but I don't dare. A regular mortal man cannot just dip down out of the sky like a freaking angel or something and pluck a true warrior from the smoky chaos, right?
Hell no, he can't. So I don't and that's that.
As soon as you flop down on the ground you are picking yourself up off the beanbag and without even missing a single kick of your camouflage slipper-sock, you pick up your journey right where it fell off, hollering your war cry.
For an instant, just before our meeting there in the doorjamb, I watch as Sponge Bob flips another Crabby Patty onto a roll.
"I wonder what they really taste like?," I am thinking to myself at the exact moment of impact; a bit of odd clarity in the middle of battle.
Your tiny hard noggin slams into my crotch with all of the hellbent fury of a young north wind seeing how much shit he can blow up. Limits, rules, lines, boundries, laws, and pecking order will all come in due time, I know; me and your mom, we work hard on those things with your sister and you, but it takes a lot of patience, my friend.
Wait til you have your own kids someday...you'll see what I mean!
My pain is real, but I saw it coming so there's that. I wince and I pretend to cry because at times like this, one mindfuck deserves another and besides, looking down at you looking up at me, I see the waiting scrawled across your eyeballs: you know what you've done and you want me to react; you need it.
You grabbed the lightning in your guts with two tiny fist and you rode it, Kimosabe, and now what, Dad?
Well alright, fine then.
I gurgle and sputter and fake some tears and your face quivers in wonder? I love that about you, you cannot hide from your heart no matter what. Your face is a hoodlum rat and he gives you away fifty times a day. From a human cannonball you turn on a damn dime and that transition alone is enough to keep me hooked on this stuff for the next 500 years or so.
It's pretty thrilling for me as I watch you process things as best you can in a split second or two, your trapezey soul wavering out there on the line somewhere between a weak smile and genuine concern.
Then, right on queue: BAM!: you hit your endgame.
You wrap your stubby arms around my Walmart pajama knees and bury your face into me one more time.
"Don't cry Daddy!" you shout, all muffled up against my fake flannel.
I fake weep, like the script calls for.
You pull your head out. "Don't cry! Don't cry, Daddy! I kiss it!"
We don't waver from that script too much these days, but that's just fine with me and with you, two dudes standing out there on the edge of the smoldering Tuesday morning battlefield.
Then you lean in deliberatlely and kiss my knee, as if a kiss from you any old place would make me all better instantly.
Which, funny enough, it does every time.