I was trained, I think, to have a lot of kids, a cache, as it were, for the world to consume, or, perhaps, to protect from the world, but who can do that when one is shielding his own face from the ceaseless blows? Maybe I wasn’t trained, but it was modeled for me. I liked the idea of having many children, but I wasn’t particularly enthralled with the idea of it. Nevertheless, when I met a girl who expressed a desire to have many children, a quiver full of arrows, as it were, with which to conquer the world, standing strong in the ceaseless battle, well, who can resist? So I married her.
We snapped into a template quite quickly, into career obligations (we thought they were obligations). The institutions of this present evil age foster themselves as protectors and guides, and they eject a newly married couple of individuals into the fray with promises of further protection and guidance, but when you look back at the fortresses of the institutions of your trust, you see that they are being assailed without cessation, and if you have the will to look closely, you see that the worst of the flames are being set from those whose charge is the maintenance and operation of the institutions. And so you are demoralized. They said “career,” and I with the wife of my youth said, “okay,” then chafed, then fell away, and we found ourselves abandoned. This is a template. It happens predictably to a subset of human beings (oh, how I hate that designation; what are we? Are we human beings? Aren’t we a communion, man and wife?) every single day. And the outcry goes up into outer space, swallowed by the beepings of exploring satellites and the wind of the sun. Will Jupiter turn his eye upon us in mercy? The bloated god will only flatulate and turn away.
We fell when we fell away. “Just desserts!” cried out the men. “You have become to us as rebels.”
“But we are your own flesh and blood!”
We had two children at the time, and circumstances convinced us that two was enough. Those two would help us limp along to the end, whence they, perhaps, according to hope, could bound away. This is also common.
But we were expected to have more children. By whom? Ghosts, I should think. Spirits and unseen powers, bidding us to resume that good work, as it is also enjoyable. Career had failed us (and we certainly failed it) and progress was in ruins, so why not flex ourselves, as man and wife, and shatter the template?
Indeed, the near template lies smoldering in the rubbish heap, but we find ourselves in another one, a little more forgiving than the last one, for without career, and without progress, one finds himself not beholden to institutional fathers and mothers. I’m older than most new fathers, now, bouncing a baby boy upon my knee, peering over reading glasses into his smiling eyes. Ah! But many men have fathered a child in their forties, yea, even into their sixties. This is not unusual, not at all.
What is unusual, I think (but not at all departing from template overlaid) is that I have fathered a child by a woman (the wife of my youth, still faithful, according to a promise) who is likewise in her forties. Now this is the stuff of a story, a story of defiance, of risk, of triumph.
Defiance, risk, and triumph have their costs.
After the first two had grown into their grade school years, I began to coast, physically, intellectually, emotionally. “Yes, this is the way of all flesh: one spreads out, goes it easily, and relaxes until breath comes no more.” And I was satisfied. But she wanted more children, and she did produce them, and I found myself unable to breathe, chasing the toddler, and unable to reason with the older ones, and unable to father any of them, even though I had certainly fathered them. The wife of my youth, therefore, had, in producing two more children, taken me aside and flogged me in my complacency, whence I emerged a mortal man. My diet is now tuned toward longevity of heart. My physical regimen forces blood to course at higher rates in the quest to clear out my veins of pernicious plaques. Stories of wisdom pour into my mind, in order that I may pour them out unto my four sons, whom I desire all to be kings. On top of all that, mortality is ever before me. I am older, now, and the effort required to remain a father of young children–babies–and also the husband of one wife–the effort is aging me.
The sense of death creeping forward to make his rightful claim is stark. I see him lurking, perhaps to claim me ahead of time (from our perspective), or, if permission is granted, to claim me suddenly. He is prepared to slit my throat at the twinkle of his lord’s eye.
I sneaked the three-year old out of bed and gave him half my piece of his birthday cake. Motherhood shrieks, but the wife was napping with the infant, so motherhood was not there to witness the crime. Oh, and it was a crime, and I knew it was a crime, looking into his eyes, as he instructed me to eat my half of this, the last piece of his birthday cake. What laws of fatherhood have been violated, perpetrated by the wife of my youth while husband has been absent?
O Mother! O Father! No, not mother, not father: O Husband! O Wife! The number of days is…what? Thirty years? Is that a big number to you? Fifty years? Did you indeed obey? Did you indeed answer? Oh, for sixty years together passes like a whisper, and then you are elderly, and they are counting the days until they can have your things. To whom will you give it? And what will you say when you give it? “Obey. Answer. Thus you will have many arcs, and much arcing, as I do”?
Isn’t it better to say, “Commit crimes; redeem the institutions. They are your places of respite”?
It’s one prison of many, and all of us go to the one, with dead certainty. In which will you find happiness before then?