Chapter six is titled, ‘Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire’. Seven-year-olds are intimately familiar with the concept, but I’m not sure if Ian’s ever heard the expression.
‘Do you know what that means?’ He shakes his head.
‘Well, imagine you’re a piece of meat, frying in a pan.’ He throws his eyes open and shudders. ‘Waaaaaah!’
‘Now you jump out of the frying pan, and land in the fire!’
‘Wooooah ahhhhh eeeeee!’
‘Where would you rather be: in the pan, or in the fire?’
He jerks his thumb over his shoulder. ‘I’m back in the pan with my old friend, Bacon!’
Friday at the dollar theater. Boys’ night out. Mommy at home, not disapproving of the box of Raisenets or bag of M&Ms.
We’re snuggling in the arctic chill of a movie theater, and watch as the Love Interest trembles but takes the hand of our Hero as he leads her to the edge of the rooftop. Smiling to hide her fear, she nervously admits that she doesn’t care for heights.
Ian nods after a handful of candy finds his mouth in the dark. He swallows and whispers in my ear, ‘I’m afraid of heights myself.’
Lasagna, left-over or otherwise, is a soothing balm unto my soul. It is comforting, restorative, and cheesy. It was dinner tonight, with warm, crusty, garlic bread. I was a happy man, and made it known.
‘Daddy,’ Ian said, ‘you’ve got a whole lasagna thing goin’ on in your life.’
At dinner last night, in exchange for forcing him to eat barbecue chicken instead of (yet another) grilled cheese, I allowed Ian to choose any drink he wanted from the dispenser. Soda is usually reserved for vacations or special occasions, so this was a rare treat.
In retrospect, allowing a child with decision-making issues and a limited history of soda consumption to select from an array of colorful, enamel-eroding beverages may have been a little cruel.
He clutched the school-bus yellow cup to his chest, and bounced from the tips of one toe to the other: Charlie Bucket with a shiny pound. I could see his lips moving, ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…’ Just before his head popped, Ian rushed to the machine and choked, hastily choosing the Whammy of sody water: Caffeine-Free Diet Coke.
Oooh, sorry! But thanks for playing!
I leave work early on Fridays during the summer. Yesterday Ian and I grabbed a quick lunch, took the train downtown, and visted the City Museum. For five hours.
I ruminated on the way home, and realized several things:
- Ian has overcome much of his fear of heights, dark places, loud noises, and death.
- I am more flexible than I think.
- I am thirty-one years old, not twenty. Or six.
- The groin muscle I injured several years ago has not completely healed.
- I am now keeping up with Ian, not the other way ’round.
Ian’s always wanted a younger brother. Unless God, in his infinite humor, decides otherwise, it ain’t gonna happen. But we have a two-year-old godson, Timothy, who’s filling the role quite nicely.
We spent last week in Madeira Beach with friends and our godson, sharing a beach-front condo and sixteen-hour drive. Ian and Timothy spent the trip no more than six inches apart. They sat next to each other in the car, played together on the beach and in the bath, and shared a room.
When traveling with kids, you must always cater to the lowest common denominator. The difference, with this trip, was that Ian had always been that denominator. His feeding times, his nap schedule, his height restriction. In Madeira Beach, Timothy set the bar.
Ian was infinitely patient. When I use the word ‘infinite’, I’m being quite literal. When it came to Timothy, there was no end to Ian’s grace and good will. He shared his best toys, his favorite foods, his parents’ attention. During a rainy-day trip to the aquarium, Ian took Timothy by the hand and led him gently through the exhibits, pointing, explaining, and teaching.
On the morning of the penultimate day, Ian woke late. Timothy had woken an hour earlier. Ian stumbled from his room, and shuffled, frowning, to the bathroom. He walked back without having said a word. I followed.
He’d returned to bed, buried under the covers. I closed the door, lifted the blanket, and crawled next to Ian. He snuggled into my arm.
We lay still, the sounds of Elmo drifting from the living room.
‘Did you need a break from Timothy?’
‘It’s hard work, isn’t it?’
‘Being a big brother.’
‘It takes a lot of work, and a lot of patience. Kinda like being a daddy. I’m very proud of you. You’ve done a wonderful job taking care of Timothy. You’ve been very good to him.’
He shifted. ‘Daddy?’
‘Don’t you know how I wanted a little brother?’
‘I don’t need one anymore, because I got my wish. God gave me a brother, huh?’
‘He sure did.’ He nodded. ‘Do you want to get up now?’
So we didn’t.