25 Jul 2014
You won’t believe how fast it goes, he said. Mine is 6 foot 4 now.
His beard, entirely white with nicotine stains that betrayed a lifetime of smoking, surrounded his smiling mouth. He followed me out of the shiny new parcel hall of the lego red post office. It goes so quickly, he said. Suddenly, they sleep all night and then before you know it, they are gone. When I see little ones like that, he said pointing to my son, I am reminded how fast it goes. I’m not a pervert, he quickly added.
How I wish this stranger hadn’t had to add that last phrase. It never crossed my mind that he was. I just was pondering the smoking and the tinge of sadness in his voice as he recalled his own son and the fleeting reminder of him. He felt it necessary to reassure me in some way. He signaled that his act of just observing my boy playing with his animals on the floor while I retrieved a parcel, was just an innocent glance of a stranger. As we all walked out of the parcel hall he said, you are doing a great job. I thanked him and marveled myself how fast the last four and a half years have already gone.
There is a strange sadness to all our lives now that a grandfatherly man cannot talk to a woman about her son without an element of suspicion. It made me feel so melancholy that he needed to say that. That our society has eroded to the point where men of a certain age, or even, men of any age, cannot comment about children that are not their own.
Had this man, with his stained beard and soft Canadian accent, simply said, they grow up so fast, I would have just nodded and smiled. You won’t believe how fast it goes.