The most important full moon of my life.

It’s tonight. Here’s why: 336.

That’s the number of full moons I can expect to see if I live to be the average age for an American male. I run, don’t smoke, and I’m happy, so perhaps my lifespan will be extended. But based on the science and betting averages, I’m looking at 336 more.

I didn’t think of this until yesterday, when I did a little math and came to this rather shocking conclusion. I think that ninety percent of my life is convincing myself I’m not concerned with aging, but I am. It feels like these thoughts have stolen into my writing– two years ago, I wrote this line, and it means a lot to me now.

I’ve lived through 576 full moons. That seems like a lot, until I realize it’s gone by in a blink. My son is nine. I’ve been married for ten years. I have old friends, getting older, and new friends who are younger. We speak of things they can’t have seen, but that are real to me. My stories are a Venn diagram of their life and mine, a common ground made real by shared words over coffee and cheeseburgers.

336 more. I’m not sad– I’m not even really counting. But moonlight has a pressure, however soft, and I feel it.

Happy Birthday, Son. Love, Dad.

Our son Teddy turns nine today. His birthday is the culmination of a series of surprises, that include (but are not limited to):

Becoming a dad at forty, when my entire life had been spent in service to myself, not others.

The surreal experience of my bride and I being sent home with a live human being in our red Mustang, and wondering, “What the hell do we do now?”

Discovering that, for the first few months, he didn’t do very much; sort of like an exceptionally cute inchworm with toes.

Watching him grow. Alarmingly fast. Like, “Your four year old will need you to help him shave soon.” That kind of fast. Missy is very tall. I am tall. We’re all tall. Teddy is really tall. He’s five feet tall, with no end in sight.

Learning that kids tend to run around naked. A lot.

Finding out that due dates for babies are a “serving suggestion”, as he arrived six weeks early, when I had the entire bathroom ripped out and our toilet sitting over a crawlspace. It had quite the frontier feel, but with 85% more possums and raccoons.

Watching him develop a love for kittens and puppies as naturally as if it were his calling.

Seeing the first time he told a joke, and it was funny.

Holding hands with him as we walk, and wondering if I will ever be more needed (or happy) in my life than in that moment.

Seeing his mother in him, as well as his grandmother, and me, and a line of wonderful people who all comprise part of him; but knowing that he is utterly unique.

Wondering who he will become, but also fearing the passage of time.

Standing quietly in the kitchen with my wife, talking about him in hushed tones because he amazes us.

Feeling my purpose realized, fully and with complete joy, and being thankful that I get to see him grow.

Happy birthday, Teddy. You are the best thing under the sun. We love you.

 

The Power of Pie

Today is National Pie Day, or Pi Day if you insist on the use of math. As a history professor, I naturally avoid any numbers that are more complex than, say, single digits.

It’s for our own good. Trust me.

However, 3.14 is a number even I can remember, and thus, we celebrate the majesty of pie, a food group that is so lush and varied it deserves its own channel in our collective cultural awareness.

I’ve written (at length) about being the grandson of bakers, who founded Ted N Peg’s Pie Stand in Rome, New York. For me, pie is breakfast. It is a snack for the grim hours between one and three in the morning, as I stand impatiently waiting for my dogs to re-inspect every square inch of the very yard they left two hours earlier, because in that time there could be mummies or zombies or, heaven forfend. . . .a possum.

We can’t have that.

Regardless, it’s a chance for me to stand at the sink, glaring into the stygian blackness of our backyard while eating pie and waiting for the herd to come home, so to speak. In those moments, I will once again marvel at the wonder of pie, and how my simmering anger dissipates with each bite as one by one, the dogs come in and lay down to begin their gusty snoring, dreaming the things only dogs can know in their sleep.

Yesterday, I was reheating pizza for my son, who is currently eating as if he as just released from a prison camp. Before I nuked his two slices of (cheese) pizza, I took a bite– an editorial sample, if you will– it was a piece that was only bread and sauce, free of cheese and oddly naked.

In that moment, I was transported thirty-five years into the past, when family friends took my family to a market in Rome, New York. There, they bought me a slice of tomato pie– a heretical twist on pizza that had little cheese, was fluffy, and served cool. The first sharp tang of summery tomato and  oregano was like the essence of pizza, stripped down for my consideration. It was. . .new. Amazing. A symbol of a new life, in a distant state. It was different, but familiar and good.

 

And yesterday, there I stood in my own kitchen, thinking of old friends and sweeping changes for a skinny thirteen year old who didn’t understand why he had to leave his grandparents a thousand miles away, in the sunshine of his life. His home. I still don’t understand.

Pie is food and food is memory. If I ever forget that again, I know it only takes one bite to be reminded.

I love you.

I am forty-eight, and I have achieved a kind of balance where I can now tell my friends I love them.

It’s liberating and invigorating and a lot of other action verbs (gerunds, I think) and I’ve waited my entire life for the satisfaction of having friends– some who have known me for thirty years or more– to whom I can say, without hesitation, “I love you.”

Yes, we may accompany this with an awkward male hug or no hug at all, but it’s an unexpected benefit of aging that, up until recently, had been wholly unknown to me.

I anticipated the aches and pains, the, ahem, thickening around the midsection. The, ahem, lines of character, hard earned and now worn as an emblem of experience and a life well lived.

What I did not anticipate is what I’ve seen older men doing around me all my life. They are both sweeter– yes, sweeter– and meaner all at once, a contradiction I’d previously only found in childish candy and chocolate milk on the verge of spoilage. It’s a heady sensation to me, since I (among everyone who knows me) am most surprised to see myself here, on the cusp of fifty– happy, rich with friends, and able to put away the concerns of a younger man.

I think it’s the best of both worlds. In my mind, I am twenty-something, an impervious wall of the me I knew from mirrors long ago, but a construct; a thing that existed only at a glance.

I like this aspect of me a great deal more. My son senses it. My bride, too.

I think getting older means that going slower means we are free. Free to say things like I love you without irony or care.

I’m also closer to the senior discount at Denny’s, and yes, I will use it.

I’m a man!

 

Getting Older.

As we roll into 2017, I’m one year closer to being fifty.

I can’t believe it.

Regardless, due too eating to much between the hours of 1-3AM, which is apparently when I MUST HAVE CAKE, I started running last year. I love it.

But, I only like running outside, and in the heat. The hotter the better, which leaves me in a lurch right now as Tennessee is in the midst of our own Arctic Winter. And then summer, and then winter again, but mostly winter.

So, I started a pushup challenge with myself. I did forty pushups (not all at once) about three weeks ago. Today, I just did four hundred. Again, not all at once, but you get the picture. To my horror, I seem to kind of like them, and I can do them anywhere that gravity exists. I think the goal is to run outside with no shirt (and not scare people) this summer, which means I’ve got five months to go. I’m keeping a log book, and when it’s time to run, I’ll add up my pushups and see just how many it takes to turn back the clock a bit.

In other news, I really appreciate Oreo Thins being sold in convenient single-serving packages of forty.