Friday, October 16, 2009

Thoughts from the day my son was born

As my son has yet another birthday, I can't help but feel nostalgic: boy they grow up fast! I wrote this note to his mother on the day he was born. I ran across it recently, so I decided to post it here verbatim. A lot has changed since then, of course. But it seems like every year somehow gets better than the last, so as much as I sometimes want to freeze him, I wouldn't go back if I could. Still, I can clearly remember how it felt to be a brand new parent, "all potential and promise," with the entire experience still before me. It was the moment I realized that I could and would be a good dad, and that I was going to do my best to enjoy every moment watching my son grow up. I hope those of you who have kids of your own can relate...

Look at our son, so tiny, so beautiful. Feel the soft skin of his cheeks. Hold his little hands in yours. Listen as he breathes what are still his first breaths. He is a perfect, unbelievable, amazing baby boy.

But he is so much more than just that. It is hard to tell right now, but look at him again. Can you see the rest? You have to look hard. The details are fuzzy to be sure, and you can only just catch glimpses, but it’s all there.

He has already learned to hold up his head, to crawl, to walk, to run. He has amazed us with his first words, and even more with every word since. He has learned how to shoot a basketball, how to fix a toilet, how to comfort a friend.

Can you see the look of wonder on his face as he sees his first firefly? Can you hear him describe the thrill of his first roller coaster ride? Weren’t those first few Christmases great? Don’t you wish he was still young enough to trick-or-treat?

He has already been to his first day of school. He has learned which subjects he likes and which he finds challenging. He has graduated. He has gone away to college and he has found his first real job, and quit, and found another, and still wondered what he really wants to do.

He has fallen in love. He has had his heart broken. He has fallen in love again.

I can see him years from now, looking at a photograph of himself as a baby in his mother’s arms. He can’t believe that tiny creature was ever him. Neither can I, even as I stand here and see it for myself. A baby in his mother’s arms.

And as I look real close, I again see so much more. Not just a young mother clutching her newborn infant, but a strong woman who has weathered the storms and the sunshine of her child’s youth. She has cared for him when he could not care for himself. She has fought with him and fought for him. She has taught him and she has learned from him. She has second-guessed herself and worried and struggled, but she has also felt more joy than she ever knew existed. And love. And pride.

Look again at our son. He has already wrapped his arms around you thousands of times and said, “I love you, Mom.” And your heart has leapt each time. But for now, just for now, while he is all potential and promise, you still get to live every one of those times for the first time.

And come what may, he will always be your perfect, unbelievable, amazing baby boy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Welcome to the zombie apocalypse

If you were not already aware of it, today is World Zombie Day 2009. And it is on this day that I, one of the planet's leading zombie watchdogs, must admit defeat.

You see, I am reasonably certain that the zombie apocalypse has already come and gone - the mutant zombie overlords are already in control, and somehow I missed the whole thing.

I say this because everywhere I turn I see zombies: people whose lethargic, apathetic demeanor leaves little doubt that they have lost all capacity for human emotion or motivation. The world around me has become a shuffling collection of beings with no apparent dreams or desires, no purpose in life but to slowly melt and devour my brain.

I notice it especially when I am driving. Detroit used to be the Motor City - a place where the goal of everyone on the road was to go as fast as possible, and where we had developed a cooperative system to do just that. We worked together to ensure that everyone got where they were going with as little to interrupt their progress as possible. People would change lanes to allow cars to merge onto the freeway, or to allow faster cars to pass.

Now I see people regularly driving ten under in the fast lane with no acknowledgment of the chaos accumulating in their wake. I see them straddling the line between lanes, either unable to decide which they prefer or all together oblivious to the concept of lanes to begin with. And I see them blowing through yield signs or changing lanes blindly with the express intent to kill me.

I don't think I'm being paranoid here. Other examples abound. At Kohl's a few days ago, I saw a free shopping cart and asked a group of women standing near it if it belonged to one of them. I said this in a friendly tone and with a smile on my face, but my inquiry was met with silence. They just stared at me with cold, dead, unfeeling eyes.

At the ice arena the other day, a boy walking by accidentally hit me in the head with his hockey stick. When his stick met resistance, he turned and stared at me with a blank expression. "Oops!" I said, laughing to put him at ease, "Be careful there!" he just stood there and stared at me, as did the adults with him, then they turned silently and left, no apology or empathy to be found in the bunch.

Those blank expressions are becoming commonplace everywhere: work, restaurants, even on the streets of my neighborhood. When I pass people, I always smile and make eye contact. Increasingly, no one smiles back. Zombies. When I hold the door open behind me for the next fellow, no one ever reaches out to grab it or says "thank you" - they just walk right by. Zombies. When I try to track down some frustratingly elusive piece of information at work, my coworkers just shrug and put their heads back down. Zombies. I used to have intelligent conversations with people about important topics, but now all anyone can do is repeat back to me the latest nonsensical rantings of Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann. Zombies.

I don't know how many other survivors there are, but if you're still out there stay strong! We non-zombies may be in the minority now, but we're people too. In time, we may find a way to survive under our zombie overlords, and maybe - just maybe - turn the tides once more.

There are others like you still out there, so don't give up hope! Keep dreaming, keep caring and be on the lookout for other survivors. We'll be the ones smiling, using our turn signals, and not trying to eat your brains.