Sunday, September 11, 2011

Separation Anxiety

There are probably at least 325,947 blog posts about remembering 9/11 today, on the 10th anniversary of that terrible day.  It’s pretty much what everyone in the U.S.  is thinking about today (and countless others throughout the world). And certainly millions more tweets, facebook posts, and other social media outlets are taking up extra bandwidth today for people to acknowledge a day that really did transform our day-to-day consciousness.  Of course, these venues didn’t even exist on 9/11, which seems like an eternity ago. Heck, I didn’t even have a cell phone then. So I apologize for being a bit redundant, and I promise this post is really about Jack and me and fatherhood and all that sappy stuff I’ve been writing about for the past month or so. 

Jack was not even in my sub-sub-sub-sub conscience on 9/11.  Babies were not in my plan to be the best scientist ever.  However, 10 years later, the tragedy that happened then makes me realize how profound having a child is, and how devastating that day must have been for thousands and thousands of people who lost their children and other loved ones, whether they were 1 or 41.  I was working that day…because, well, I worked every day.  I didn’t even know about the attacks until mid-afternoon because I was working at home, engrossed in some sort of science which was everything to me then, but now seems rather trivial.  When I found out, I became glued to the TV, watching 24 h solid of CNN just like everyone else. Whatever it was I was working on was neglected for a few days.  But it was more surreal than real.  Terrible, yes. Terrifying, yes.  But I didn’t really know anyone who was directly affected by the attacks. So I don’t think I internalized it as much as perhaps I should have. The tragedy felt by so many people by having lost loved-ones, children, parents. 

No more Swiss Army knives being taken onto planes, no more seeing people off and picking them up at the gate, and always having to take my damn laptop out of its case.  These were the things that most affected me in the wake of 9/11.  In fact, a week after 9/11, I went to a travel agent (this was in the dark ages, before Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, Priceline, etc) to book a ticket to Sweden for a work trip. The travel agent stared at me through glassy eyes, obviously not having seen a soul in her office since the tragedy; she looked at me incredulously when I told her what I needed. No one was buying airplane tickets right now. Sure, we’re at war. Sure, air travel is a bit scarier. But heck, I’ve got to get to Sweden—their economy might collapse and the world would follow if I don’t give a couple of seminars about my research on pond scum, meet with a bunch of graduate students over beer (at Noon!), and eat their god-awful food (I still have nightmares about the Moose-blood sausage and Reindeer Heart they made me eat).

So, fast forward 10 years, and here I am.  A stay-at-home dad who’s life has become completely transformed by a 1-year old.  Mind you, he’s the best 1-year old that ever stepped foot on this planet, but still.  What would the 31 year-old me think of the 41-year old me?  He’d have thought I was a washed-up has-been who’s thrown away his career for absolutely idiotic reasons (which is true) and now has nothing better to do than while away the time chasing after a wobbly toddler who loves grabbing for the knives in the dishwasher (which is also true, but it’s been so much more awesome than I ever imagined). 

I think today I’m more deeply affected by thinking about the tragedy that happened on 9/11 than I was at the time.  Not that I wasn’t horrified by what happened.  I was.  But, it wasn’t focused, it wasn’t specific, I didn’t have any direct connection to those events. 

There is a possibility that I might have to be separated from Jack for awhile soon. I’m not sure how likely that possibility is, but it’s possible.  And, I sob every time I think about it. But he’s healthy, he’s happy, and he’s fine.  Now that I have Jack, now that I’m so completely in love with him, and now that there’s a chance I might have to be apart from him for a while, I think I have a teeny-tiny bit of a better idea of what those who survived loved ones in the 9/11 tragedy must have gone through.  Or frankly, any other tragedy where a loved one is lost. 

I know that what I’m dealing with is nothing compared to what they had to deal with, but I think I’ve figured out what falling so deeply in love with your spouse and children does to your basic anatomy and physiology.  But like most scientific truths, Dr. Suess figured it out long ago.  Remember when the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes?  I know the cardiologists out there will deny it, but I think that’s what happens when you fall so deeply in love with your spouse and when you have a child.  You don’t just fill up your old heart with love—your heart grows and you fill that up too.  And when something tragic happens, it has that much more profound of an effect on you.

Jack has made me realize how important family is.  Not just parents and offspring, but all family.  We live far away from our families. Now, I love my family, but honestly, the distance never really bothered me that much.  I was too busy with work to hang with them anyway, so what’s it matter?  I no longer feel that way.  I wish we could see my parents more than a few times a year and they could really get to know Jack.  I wish my brothers and aunts were just in the next town over and we could have dinner or watch a football game together.  I wish Jack could really get to know his cousins.

So, here I am, crying as I type. 10 years after one of the most profound and tragic events in my adult life, thinking about my loving family, my amazing wife, my wonderful baby.  Hoping that we can all be together forever.

No comments:

Post a Comment