It’s no secret that a father and son can bond over just about any activity regardless of the location or the conditions. This includes the middle of the driveway during a blizzard, which is where my son and I found ourselves over the weekend doing some big guy work.
The wind howled and the snow blew, smacking into our faces like a thousand tiny needles. The cowboy hat and three-day beard was enough to keep me conscious, but I worried about him. Worried despite the seven layers his mother had put on him before he followed me outside. I stood there with shovel in hand and regarded him—sweats/jeans/shirt/sweater/snowsuit/coat, followed by scarf/toboggan/hat. He couldn’t even put his arms to his sides.
“You look like a camouflage starfish,” I told him.
“Awesome,” he said.
We were, of course, the only people idiotic enough to be outside. Everyone else in the neighborhood was sitting by the fire waiting things out. Not us. No sir. We Coffeys are hearty stock. A few snowflakes weren’t gonna keep us down. It was our job to care for the Ponderosa.
So we set to work, me with my huge shovel with the orange plastic blade and he with the pint-sized model that fit his five-year-old hands. Shoveled and scooped and tossed. Also froze. Halfway to the edge of the road my son sputtered and stalled.
He sat down on a pile of snow that was almost as tall as he was and said, “Dad, I need Life Alert.”
“You need what?”
“Life Alert. Like those old people on the TV.”
“Why do you need Life Alert?”
“Because the lady says so. ‘All…senior…citizens…should…have…Life Alert.’ That’s what she says.”
“That was a pretty good impression,” I told him. “But you’re not a senior citizen.”
“When will I be?”
I scooped up more snow and said, “About sixty years.”
“That’s a long time. Are you a senior citizen?”
“Feels like I am right now,” I answered. “But technically no. Not for another thirty years or so.”
He sat silent for a few minutes, long enough for me to make four trips across the driveway and back.
Then, “When can I be a grownup like you?”
“It’ll be a while yet,” I told him. “Don’t you like being a kid?”
“Nobody likes being a kid. Kids can’t do stuff. I can’t wait to be a grownup.”
I nodded because I understood. When I was five, all I wanted to be was fifteen. At fifteen all I wanted to be was twenty-one. Now that I was thirty-seven, I secretly wanted to be five again. Such was life, I supposed. We spend so much of it wanting to be somewhere or someone else.
“I think you just need some patience,” I said.
“You mean I should be a doctor?” he answered, and then fell over into the snow laughing at his attempt at humor.
I leaned on my shovel and watched as he tried and failed to pick himself up. All those layers made him about as nimble as a turtle on its back. But rather than battle his plight, he simply embraced it and made a snow angel.
I lifted him up and brushed the snow off his clothes.
“No,” I said. “I mean patience like…patience. Like being able to wait for something.”
“Okay Dad,” he said.
The eloquent and wise life lesson I thought would come next never did. My son dropped the conversation like the gum that spilled from his mouth, kicked and then buried and then forgotten. I suppose that’s for the best. There are things you teach your kids and things they must teach themselves. Patience, I thought, was one of the latter. Not because I didn’t want to teach it to him, but because I had yet to really learn it myself.
Besides, I thought he would be okay. I had the evidence there with me in the snow. Patience is a hard thing to find when what you’re waiting to get is a lot better than what you already have. And even though my son wanted to grow up quick, I could tell he was quite content with being a kid.
Maybe that’s the secret. Not just to patience, but to life itself. We’ll always be waiting for something. Maybe the trick is to have fun in the meantime.
This post is part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival on Patience. To read more, visit my friend Bridget Chumbley.