They were wild and free, full of wonder and mischief, and frankly, it was getting on my nerves. Every new adventure required running, yelling, and, apparently, my attention. I was tired and beat. I wanted them to sit beside me on the sofa and savor the moment with small talk and tenderness. They cared nothing for it.
I finally gave in and took a glass of whiskey to the laptop, determined to type out a few more words about my life as a father even as I was hiding from it. It was the end of the month and I needed the money.
After a while I went downstairs to make them hot cocoa and put out a plate of some minty marshmallows from Trader Joe’s. I told them to get into their pajamas and that they didn’t have to go to sleep, but they had to go to bed. It was Friday, but late is late, and they could read for a bit if they wanted. They ate their snack, brushed their teeth, and did exactly what I told them. I only had to read one book and tickle them twice. They gave up without a fight, pillow or otherwise.
I promised that I would come back when it was time to turn their light out, then I proceeded to wash some dishes in a too dark kitchen beneath a soundtrack of Sinatra and the constant hum of their dwindling conversation. At one point someone took to the harmonica and played what passes for blues in these parts, and then they were quiet.
The door was slightly open, and I could only see the youngest. His eyes were open but his gaze was gone. He looked about the room in silent stare, strikingly aware and sweetly clouded. I could only wonder what thoughts lingered on the tip of his world as he lost it all and faded to slumber. It was an amazingly slow and beautiful process, like watching paint dry on a Van Gogh, afraid to look away for you might miss that moment when what had been was now no more—nothing left but easy breaths and heavy brushstrokes.
Normally, in the rare event that the youngest boy surrenders to sleep without a fuss, the oldest stays awake, living loudly through the pages of whatever book he is propped against, and I assumed that was the case tonight. However, as I snuck in the door I realized that he, too, was out for the night, his cheeks flushed from days of youth, rosy red and smooth as a memory.
I stood there, with Sinatra in the background and a light through the window, between my two boys sleeping so warm and so sound—and it was as beautiful of a moment as I have ever known.
It was damn near perfect.