Painting of "The Inspiration of Saint Matthew" by Caravaggio (1602)

The Spectre of Death

My 6-year-old daughter, D, recently went with my wife, J, to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. A Christmas present for mother and daughter. Upon realizing she would not be going with them, my 3-year-old, V, began to cry inconsolably. I whisked her to the Subway as she cried for her mother. To lessen the hurt, I explained to V, as we descended the stairs, why we weren’t going as well.

“You see, it is a very scary musical. It doesn’t have any of the singing and dancing you like. It is not like Matilda, or Shrek [The Musical], or Wicked.”

She replied through sobs, “Yeah, and I want to see the David Bowie Musical.”

This is a magical time in children’s lives where they assume that everything they can think of indeed exists. My six-year-old said the same sorts of things at V’s age. Everything they like is available through all forms of media. And hell, who am I to argue with a David Bowie Musical, right?! It is a world packed with possibilities and endless new experiences. Everything is new, exciting, and possible.

I look at this optimism, which really encourages me in my life. I haven’t felt that “everything is in front of me” optimism for a while. Turning 45 didn’t help. My parents turning 83 made me realize our time here is most certainly limited, and we all have less time than we think to do the things that matter. I worry about regret. Everything gets harder as you age.

My daughters pull me through the darkest days with their glass-overflowing optimism. I don’t know who I would be without them. It is both wonderful and terrifying to love them so much and for them to love me so much. To depend on my strength when at times, I feel I have less than I need.

It isn’t easy to articulate this stuff to my therapist, who doesn’t have kids. It is hard to relate to his perspective. He’s nice enough, but having kids fundamentally changes you. Sure, you can have pets, but a cat doesn’t change who you are as a human. It may change what you do. But not why you live your life. Kids do that.

This isn’t meant to shit on my therapist or people who don’t have kids. It is only to say it is hard for me to feel like I’m being understood. It is like trying to explain a Caravaggio to someone who has never seen a Caravaggio (see Above or visit Rome). Or heard David Bowie. Or watched Mon Uncle.

We are all getting older. The pandemic has forced many of us to focus on what is truly important. Unsurprising, most of the things we thought were important weren’t. We didn’t make time for the things that were, and now we have to put things right. There is no later. We may not make it to later. Later may not come.

My advice to you is to follow my daughters’ example. I want to believe in their world full of possibilities, and I invite you to as well. Expect the things that excite you to exist and if they don’t exist, make them exist. Let’s not worry about how we get it done. Let’s focus on fulfilling dreams and believing it is possible because they believe it is.