Ben Tanzer is the author of the books My Father’s House, You Can Make Him Like You, So Different Now and the forthcoming Orphans, among others. Ben also oversees day to day operations of This Zine Will Change Your Life and can be found online at This Blog Will Change Your Life, the center of his growing lifestyle empire.
He’s just walking down the street in front of you. It’s what they do of course, walk and breathe, and all those things people engage in when they’re alive and they grow.
He’s in front of you though, and he’s not holding your hand, or looking at you, and that’s different, new.
You’re not even on his radar.
Did you see when she kicked him at recess? your older son says to his friend all mock serious.
Yeah, she replies, he got treated.
Treated, your son says laughing, that’s not how you use the word treated.
No, she says, what’s treated?
It’s like when you say, your mom is so fat, that when she stands in front of the sun it’s like a total eclipse. That’s getting treated, he says.
And they both laugh.
His enormous backpack is swaying to and fro. His lunch bag hanging there off a hook, the lunch he made, wrapped and packed himself.
At the moment though, he’s just walking along, talking, joking and so far away from you.
He never was soft, not like the little one who is walking along beside you and holding your hand.
But this is something new, different. He has muscles now and what he claims is the start of pubic hair, though he called it penis hair when he told you about them the night before after his shower.
Look, he said, there’s like ten of them, look, right there.
You looked, you didn’t want to, but you did, you didn’t see much, but you smiled anyway and said good work.
You watch him some more, and you try to figure out what this moment means, because it means something, right, it must.
Though maybe that’s a parent thing, the need to add meaning to stuff that is otherwise normal, regular, expected, things that are what they are, nothing more, or less, just what is.
Still, isn’t this the same kid who wouldn’t leave your side at school drop-off just this time last year? Who until recently ran into traffic rather than encounter a dog? Who wouldn’t leave the house if it was windy?
Isn’t this the same kid?
It is, and yet there he was, what, last weekend, running in the park with three dogs, big dogs, all of them being buffeted by the wind, and all of them full of frolic and joy.
So what does all this mean, because you want it to mean something, it has to, every moment does now.
He gets farther ahead, still laughing and talking and fighting and walking that big kid walk, and you know what it means. It means he is moving away from you, venturing on, and he has to, it’s how it works, and you have to encourage it, and you will.
But it’s real now, really real, and once there is movement, there is movement away, and it must be celebrated, even as you hold on to it, and even as you begin to chase after him.
Because while you know this, this moving away from you, is something you always said you wanted, you still cannot bear the idea of actually witnessing it, not yet anyway.