I came home from work today to a small spot of spit up on the carpet in front of the door that goes out to the garage. My nearly 11-year old miniature schnauzer has a tendency to lick his hair when he’s nervous/bored/etc… and that makes him spit up occasionally. He also got into something last week(we think maybe a sicada since I found one alive in his beard) and he got sick then, too.
Regardless, that immediately puts me in paranoid mode. He’ll be 11 in October. Maybe there’s something serious going on. He just had his yearly check up less than two weeks ago and he was fine, so I don’t think that’s the case. Still, I spent some extra time on the floor with him, playing with his bunny, his raccoon, and his puppy toys. He happily ravaged them like a wolf in the wild snapping the neck of its prey. He did all the things he normally does. I even got his leash and we went for a walk and he dropped three healthy dumps whilst we walked in the Midwest heat.
And yet, I felt something was off. “He looks depressed” I thought to myself as he laid on the couch trying to find a comfortable spot to plop his head on the cushion. “He seems off” I told myself. Then my 18-year old got home from spending the night with my parents, which would be the last time they see her for a bit as we’re moving her into college in two days. She came in and Otto the schnauzer greeted her like he always does, nub of a tail wagging and chipper as usual.
It’s not Otto that’s off, it’s me. I’m kind of depressed and lost. I had a dream Saturday night there was a plane that dropped a nuclear missle on the town, and I watched from the top of a building. I saw a fire cloud erupt, the explosion was deafening in my sleeping, REM-colored brain. Flames burst through city streets and engulfed block after block, quickly making its way to me. In the dream I wondered should I crawl down the side of the building and make a run for it? Or just stay several stories up and see what happens? I knew in the dream it didn’t make a damn bit of difference what I did. What was happening was happening, regardless what I did. Accept it and go with it.
Last night I had a dream I was back in high school. I walked into an English class I had no recollection of, yet I was in the middle of the school year.
We moved our oldest back to college last Wednesday, this week it’s our 18-year old. Our son is 16, a Junior in high school, and driving. He’s busy with Marching Band season and football game halftime shows. I’m feeling the weight of it all now. It’s one thing to look at the future from the backseat, thinking “I’m not there yet. We still have some weekends to hang out, watch movies, and do whatever.” But when you’re looking through the rearview mirror it’s all about missed opportunities, shoulda woulda coulda, and wondering where the last 21 years went. I’m beside myself thinking about big, empty blots on days, evenings, and weekends that used to have lots of plans and keeping track of who’s doing what and where and when. Now, it’s kind of like “Hmm. Okay. I guess it’s sort of about me now. At least until I hear otherwise.”
I’ve always functioned on a level of “I take care of them first. When they’re good, I’ll worry about myself.” With lots of time to fill(except for those Marching Band competitions that start in September), I’m trying to figure out what to do with myself. There’s the obvious stuff, like playing guitar and writing music more. That was a big part of my life for a good chunk of my adulthood(as well as my awkward teen years.) I’ll have more time to spend in the studio playing. I also started to paint last year. While at home dealing with Covid I started painting to pass the time and to keep my sanity. I could really dig into that. Of course there’s the whole diving into reading more. Why not? I like books. When I fall into one I can really get lost in them, and God knows when I had three kids here at home sitting down to read a few chapters was pretty damn difficult.
Of course, I’m not the only one with a lot more free time now. My wife is going through this as well. Maybe we could start taking day trips on the weekends. Or being more adventurous in the kitchen since there will only be one kid left(and the least picky, too.) Maybe we could do dancing lessons, or take up Karate. You know, I hear that gun ranges can be quite romantic for couples as well. Maybe we could buy matching .357 Magnums or AR-15s and go total survivalist.
Who am I kidding, I’d blow my toe off. Or worse. I’m just not cut out for trendy couple activities. I’m me. I’m the dad that always asked everyone to write a meal down on the dry erase board on the fridge that they’d like to have during the week. I’m the dad that would occasionally bring a drink home from Dunkin or Starbucks for the girls. I’d make out-of-the-way stops at Chimp’s Comix for a new issue or a trade my son and I had been waiting on. I’m the guy that would mildly wince when everyone in the house wanted to go to the movies(but would secretly be thrilled to have everyone along despite dropping $65.) Without these tasks I’m not really sure who the hell I am.
But much like that messed up nuclear bomb dream, there’s nothing I can do about all of this. I either figure out who I am outside of being dad or I will remain some kind of sadsack. I don’t want that, and I’m sure my wife doesn’t either. I know damn well the dog doesn’t want that for me. I mean, I’m the guy that rolls on the floor with him and plays with him when he’s sad.
Or does he play with me when I’m sad?
None of this is the end of the world. In fact, it’s probably the beginning of something else. I just have to figure out what to do with it. That’s all. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?