(from the book, CUTTING TEETH)
Tomorrow she’ll be one. Already, she has given us a lifetime. What they say about kids and marriage and parenting and love—all of it—is true. It is the hardest work you will ever do. It is not for those seeking instant gratification. It is not for those unwilling to give more than they have. It is not for those that need constant applause. Family life—good family life—is not for the weak or for the selfish. Family life, I think, is for those of us seeking more. Call it God. Call it “making it.” Call it hitting the sweet spot. Call it Truth. Whatever it is, you cannot know it until you are in the thick of it. Smack dab in the middle of shitty diapers, tantrums, saying hurtful things to your wife. And struggling to make ends meet. Those times—the ones when you want to cut ties, say fuck it, and leave—those are the ones that test the gut. Punch you with perspective. Kick you square in the nuts and make you, somehow, want more.
And goddammit, I want more.
I want two hundred more of my daughter’s birthdays. I want a million more fishing trips with my son. I want to hug my wife until my arms work no more. But I know better. And I know what waits.
It is not a happy ending. It is not where I’ll want to be.
But fading to black is something we practice at the end of each day. And so tonight, I’ll think long and hard about the end. Finishing up. Giving way to whatever else comes. Everything or nothing. A bright light or constant dream. And I’ll know that if I die in a car wreck tomorrow, everything is as beautiful and true as it should be.
But there’ll be no wrecking.
Like Amanda Davis in a plane.
Plath and the oven.
Hemingway cleaning his shotgun.
I’m not good enough for that. And I don’t want to be.
If I had my choice, I’d always be not good enough and write sentences too plain to make good stories if it meant I’d never die. That tomorrow would always come.
Because my daughter turns one tomorrow. My son is itching to go fishing. And watching my wife makes me realize I’ve married up. That I’m in a better place than I deserve. And that even though we are only pilgrims keeping at the keepin’ on, what we are doing is important and big and lasting. And when it is time to turn the final page, we will be satisfied with what we’ve done.