I called our oldest son “Jimmy” today.
I don’t know why. But I can picture a miniature Dr. Freud and a group of Lilliputian Phd candidates wandering around my vacuous brain, peering about and conjecturing on the matter.
The obvious explanation is that he looks exactly like you. Everyone says so. But I really don’t think that’s why I called him the name of his doppelgänger, dearly departed father.
I think it was the all-too-familiar verbal dynamic that was taking place at the moment.
It was the feeling of trying to persuade a guy with an entirely male perspective about something from an entirely female perspective. That’s something that happened around here with ongoing regularity between me and you, so I merely got confused for a second.
My mind slipped into an old familiar gear.
I was earnestly and emphatically trying to explain my unique point of view on a particular matter to James and I thought there was a slight chance he might not be agreeing with me, so in a semi-amused state of frustration I shouted,
We were both immediately and momentarily stunned. Like the time I waded-into-that-icy-creek-in-Montana-stunned.
Tommy was sitting there too because he had been enjoying the show up until that point. (Everyone knows younger siblings will find a way to sit down in the room and make themselves cozy if they think there might be even a glimmer of fireworks between an older sibling and a parent.)
Tommy immediately squeezed my hand.
I teared up. Then I remembered that thing James used to do when he was a tiny boy and smiled despite my tears…
Every time he wanted to tell YOU something, or ME something or BOTH of us something, he would walk up to us and wait patiently until he had our attention (we worked hard to teach our children not to interrupt adults.) And then, when he was sure he had whichever (or both) parent(s) attention, he would introduce himself as though we didn’t know who he was. He always said,
“It’s Me, James!”
And then he would go about showing you whatever he had crafted out of play dough or Legos or show you a trick he had mastered or ask for juice or whatever…
But no matter what it was he wanted or how recently he had just spoken to you previously, even if it had just been minutes earlier, he would re-introduce himself anew with each verbal exchange…
“It’s Me, James! Can I go outside to play?”
“It’s Me, James! Yook what I can do!”
“It’s Me, James! Come yook at what I painted on the wall for you!”
I can remember having friends over who would witness this bizarre behavior and their facial expressions always registered a peculiar type of puzzlement. Which honestly is kind’ve dumb because anyone who has ever met a toddler knows their minds are just complicated little machines.
Nonetheless, we both found it mildly embarrassing, remember?
We would make every attempt to trivialize it, confidently reassuring our friends, “We know who he is. We just think that maybe he, (because we have so many children) well…he isn’t entirely convinced. And he feels like he needs to introduce himself properly and formally each time he addresses us, so there is no confusion as to which of our offspring he is – children being in such relative abundance around here…”
But we do know. Of course we do. How could we forget? He is James. Our firstborn son.
But today I forgot for a second. I thought he was you.
But in all fairness to me, I have to tell you how your sons have really stepped up to the plate these past 4 weeks. (Is that a baseball analogy? I know how much you love it when I use sports analogies to drive my points home.) They have both stepped into your intimidatingly large Marlborough Man shoes and done everything they could possibly do at the tender ages of 17 and 20 to make you proud.
Honey, we are getting so much figured out. You wouldn’t believe the man-things we do on the reg these days. Big time testosterone-infused activities. Involving the likes of pool cleaners, Kelly blue book values, car titles, septic tanks, taxes. If you can see us right now wherever you are, I know you are shaking your head in bewilderment.
There’s no way you’re not up there wondering where in the heck all this initiative and wherewithal was when you were alive…we were just holding back out of deference to the Alpha Male!
One of your favorite lectures (and you had many) was called, “The Awareness and Participation Speech.” You were constantly in an uproar at the lack of these two fine American qualities you considered essential, yet lacking in Today’s Youth. You were convinced they disappeared with your generation. But your sons have dug deep and are exhibiting these traits. Apparently, they were there all along, just lying dormant?
Your boys are actually going to be exactly the men you wanted them to be. I would give anything for you to see. They are home every weekend tending to my every need, taking me to church, rolling the trash cans up and down the driveway without your admonishment, hugging me tons and just taking care of their mom in general.
The thing is – they are just exactly like you.
Maybe that’s the real reason James felt like he needed to introduce and distinguish himself way back when and why I’m inadvertently calling our boys by your name these days.