Monday, April 21, 2008

An Offer from an Angel

Before our son Dylan arrived on the scene, I suppose I was a typical guy in one regard: I wasn't much into babies. I liked kids, yep. Babies, however, were just little squishy things who cried and pooped a lot.

But also like lots of guys, my view of babies changed forever once I held our little guy in my arms. Changing diapers was no big deal when it came to Dylan, whereas in life before Dylan, I'd practically run from a room when a baby's butt got put on display.

It was a magic time when Dylan was a baby. It could be tiring, yeah, but when I think about that first smile, the first words, and the first steps, I'm so thankful for those memories.

Dylan will be eight in a couple of months; he's plainly past what child development cognoscenti term "early childhood." He calls me "Dad" instead of "Daddy" now, and he hasn't asked me to carry him from the car for months.

You might say that I've been feeling a little wistful. The time is going by. One day he'll be grown, and I'll wonder how that time could have flown by so ruthlessly.

I had a dream a couple of weeks ago that an angel appeared before me. She let me know that I could have the chance to go back in time to Dylan's birth if I so decided. The catch was that the Dylan of today would be gone, replaced by a Dylan molded by a dad's knowledge of what was, back in the future. She told me that I had two weeks to decide whether to take her up on her offer.

Wow. What an offer. To see that first smile again. To see him sleep, nose-to-nose, with his mama again. To play guitar for him, while his butt air-dries on the changing table again. To hear those first words again. To see him first throw a rock across the creek again. To have that first wrestling match again. To watch him on his first merry-go-round again. To have those early-morning conversations again. To take him on his first boating trip again. To carry him down the driveway to feed the llamas again. To take him to Kids' Kingdom park again.

When I flew home from Louisiana last week, I arrived in San Francisco to learn that the flights had been delayed due to weather. I looked on the departure monitor and noticed that the commuter flight prior to the one I was scheduled for had been held up for an hour. I ran across the terminal to get on the standby list for the earlier flight. I landed at Redding airport a full two hours before my scheduled time.

I called Rhonda at her office to let her know that I'd pick Dylan up from school. I made it to his school just minutes after the kids had left class for the day. I spotted him across the quad, playing with other kids waiting to be picked up by parents.

Funny thing about Dylan: he's always known when I'll be getting home, and he usually acts sort of matter-of-fact about it when I walk in the door. Instead of getting wildly excited, he'll often resume a conversation we had before I left. It's always tickled me, and it's always been sort of strangely reassuring.

But on that day, Dylan had no idea that I'd be getting home early. When he spotted me, he shrieked "DADDY!" (not "Dad") and sprinted toward me. I got down on one knee to greet him, as I usually do. Too late, the realization came that Dylan was still sprinting, was showing no inclination to slow down, and that he wasn't a toddler anymore. Nope, now he weighs eighty pounds. BOOM! He crashed into me, and I came really close to getting knocked on my ass.

My eyes watered. I'm not sure whether it was due to sentimentality, or the fact that he was squeezing my neck so hard that I couldn't breathe.

I think tonight might mark two weeks since the angel made her time-traveling offer. If she appears in my dreams tonight, will I take her up on it?

Nope. No way. I'm staying right here, and right now.


Bob Devlin said...

I often look back at pictures when the boys were younger, and think about those times and smile, but I would have to decline that angel's offer too.

Uncle E said...

Wonderful post, Hal. Thanks for sharing. It made me well up a bit, actually.
The thing is, each stage has it's wonderful moments and not so wonderful moments, but the wonderful moments far outweigh the not so.


I think you should do a follow up post when Dylan turns 17, however...

Redlefty said...

If Dylan had given you an accidental nutshot, you'd probably accept the angel's offer. :)

Great post, Hal.

debby said...

I loved them as babies and I loved them as toddlers, and I even loved them as snotty teenagers. I like seeing them turning into what they will be.

debby said...

Oh, jeepers. I forgot. Happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

The youngest of my three will be 19 in two months. Although I look back fondly on their childhoods (most of the time), I would never want to go back!

This was a wonderful post! I love reading about you and Dylan.


Annie said...

Wonderful! I think every age my kids hit is my new favorite, but I'll always miss those that came before. It's nice to catch a glimpse like this, isn't it?