Sunday, March 23, 2008


My daughter woke up at 4:15 this morning.She's back in bed, asleep (I think. I hope.) but I am downstairs at the computer, still awake.

I've mentioned before how these pre-dawn hours are my own time. I can think, and read, without interruption. Write, if the spirit listeth. In the house above the last page of my life sleeps warm and living in their beds: Mojo in our big sleigh bed, tousled in a tangle of covers, bathrobes and extra blankets (she gets very cold at night); The Peeper curled in a ball in his high bed with his little legion of stuffed friends all around; and now Missy sleeping in her crib in his room with him, usually sprawled on her back in the random way babies seem to have, arms and legs all akimbo.

How do we arrive where we are? How do we guess at where we're going? How do we get there from here? Twenty years ago I was this angry man striding out of life with an attitude but no idea what it meant: a rebel without a clue, as Tom Petty would have described it.And as I have grown older, and slower, and softer the world has changed around me in ways I wouldn't have recognized - or anticipated - when I lived in that body, in that place, at that time.He seems like another person who lived another life. As I look at the pictures of Panama and Fort Kobbe and Venado Beach I remember another morning in another place and a young woman who wanted a baby.Not a husband - she didn't particularly care for men, although her attitude wasn't so much dislike as disinterest - but a child.

Y'know...thinking back, I don't honestly believe that she'd thought about it any further than that. She hadn't considered midnight wakings and preschool and tantrums and learning to ride a bike and sleepovers and math homework and prom and carpooling to soccer games and financing a college. Neither had I, of course. We were neither of us thinking about "a family": she just loved babies and wanted a baby.

And I was a good male friend, and single, and had shown myself as openminded and fairly unsentimental.So she asked; framing it in terms that were designed to appeal to a healthy, sexually active young man - she was (and still may be, for all I know...) a happy, buxom gal with a sort of Middle Western fresh prettiness, the kind that can slip away with time and toil but is pleasing in youth. No strings: we make a baby, I keep the baby and you walk away. Forever. No contact, no daddy time, no child support. Zipless fatherhood.

I have to say I considered it. I was young, and single, and she was a nice gal, good friend, and attractive, and the prospect of the actual process of helping her achieve her desire was far from unpleasant.

But, in the end, I said no. I'm not sure tonight exactly why, but I recall it had to do with my ideas of kids and fathers and responsibility and abandonment. I think it had something to do with her youth - I was ten years older, which at the time seemed like ages - and her fickle taste in partners; she was fairly notorious in the Aviation Company for her way of taking, swearing fidelity to, and leaving, lovers.So in the end I left Panama twenty years ago without leaving behind a scrap of me who would be a young man or young woman today, who might this morning be him- or herself serving somewhere overseas, making the hard choices, contemplating the world from the surging confusion of young adulthood. Changed in incontemplatible ways from what might have begun that springtime in Panama long ago.

And I changed. And I'm sure she changed. And Panama itself changed.

And we lived our lives and died our deaths and the world changed.

How the hell did we get here from there?

And where will we go, tomorrow?

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