“Daddy? When are you going to die?”
My four-year-old is conversing with me while comfortably perched atop the toilet. Of all three of my kids, she is the only one who needs a cheerleader in the bathroom. She talks in-between grunts (and splashes). Her face flushes red occasionally and her eyes water as she anticipates my answer to her question. I make it a rule to never engage her while she is going #2, but her inquiry is too intriguing to ignore this time.
It’s also slightly offensive.
I look at myself in the mirror above the bathroom sink, wondering what about my outward appearance sparked her sense of wonder.
I recently turned 40.
The whole year I was 39 I listened to and watched the people around me smirking and warning about the destructive, crippling nature of turning the big four-O. I laughed it off, I mean, I felt terrific! The end of my 30s and not a scratch on me! Ok, so my blood pressure was a little high, but that had nothing to do with me, hypertension runs in the family. And, yes, there was that issue in my knee whenever I jogged over a half mile, an excruciating pain forcing me to stop mid-stride and limp home, but that discomfort subsided after a few days of rest (and ice). Other than that, I felt like my 30s were chock-full of energy, vitality. I was Adonis who still looked young and fresh!
And then I turned 40.
I started to see hair in strange places.
And I’m not talking about ear and nose hair, either.
I’m talking about shoulder hair.
In little patchy clumps all over the outer side of my upper arms and near the nape of my neck. I mean, really? What was I supposed to do with that? Should I pluck it or leave it alone? Should I shave it? Wax it? Braid it? I wondered if my wife would be attracted to my shoulder hair. Is that even a thing? I searched ‘shoulder hair attraction’ on-line; it was definitely not a thing.
I mean, if my whole body was hairy I might be able to get away with my shoulder shag, but my minimal body hair growth through the first 39 years of my life had made my shoulder ‘fleece’ stand out like a queen without a king.
Now, my reflection stares back at me from the mirror as my daughter waits patiently for my answer to her question.
When am I going to die?
Now I start to panic. If you want to know the truth. I can’t believe I made it this far. As a high school senior they asked: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? That only put me at 38! I was never asked to look beyond that! I’m 40 for god’s sake! I mean, what’s next? 50? 60? . . . 80!? And then what? What am I going to do if I make it to 80? How much shoulder hair will have accumulated by then? Will I have to start combing it? Massaging it with mineral oil? Will I have to wear shirts all the time? Shirts to bed? Shirts in the shower? Shirts in the public pool? In the ocean!?!?
More importantly, a man can only expect to live until they are 70-something, right!? I mean, 40 years down and what do I have to show for it? What have I done with my life? How have I made the world a better, more livable place? Am I having any impact at all?
What if I die tomorrow!? I wonder how many people would want to come to my funeral? Would anyone show up? I can hear them now:
Dan Rose, you say?
Is that the skinny guy who wears a shirt in the pool?
Eh, just send a card and some flowers.
My daughter stands up, her face enters the reflection beside mine. She looks exactly like her mom. That’s what people always say.
Right now, through the looking glass, the way she’s standing, with her head slightly tilted and her eyes wide open, our faces bear a striking resemblance. She looks like me. A younger me.
We all grow up so fast.
“I need a wipe, Daddy,” she says with a half smile.
I smile back and our faces look so similar it’s eerie.
After I finish helping her, she hugs my leg, closing her eyes and squeezing tight for a few seconds.
Kids are the greatest huggers.
It comes to me after she runs from the bathroom, when it’s just me, alone, standing in front of the mirror holding the dirty wet wipe out in front of me like some soiled scepter.
The rules are simple.
It doesn’t matter what happens tomorrow.
It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday.
There is only now.
I drop the wipe into the trash and turn away from my reflection, stepping out into the hallway. Giggles rise up from the living room like echoes from a dream. With nothing on the schedule for the rest of the day I think I have a few tea parties to attend to this afternoon.
I hope to earn a few more of those hugs, too.