Jumping Juxtaposition

It was nearing dusk as the sound of shoes on the stairs alerted me that somebody was home. Just as the sound reached the top of the stairs, I heard that familiar voice call out, "Hi, Dad." "Hi, sweet boy," I replied, as I turned to the door, expecting the rest of our customary greeting to follow – It never came.

Whether it is coming home from his day program, or waking up early on a Saturday, Ethan’s greeting to me is always the same. He stealthily approaches, and moves beside me, until he is right, right, next to me. He then bows down – his hands straight to his side, his head just inches from mine – and waits for me to react. This isn’t normally a very long time, except on Saturday mornings when he wakes me up this way. I don’t know how long he actually stands there, because I’m asleep, but he's there, bowed next to me, until I finally sense somebody is there and wake.

At this point, when I am aware he is next to me, the ball transfers to my side of the court. I reach up, usually with one hand and take him gently around the neck, and pull him even closer to me. As I kiss him on the temple, I say, “Morning, sweet boy,” or “Hi, sweet boy.” He concludes our greeting by echoing my sentiments, but in a whisper, “Morning, sweet dad,” or “Hi, sweet dad.”

Once the greeting has taken place, he straightens, and heads off to whatever else he has on his mind to do.

Today, however, our greeting didn’t happen.

I stood, then walked down the hallway to his bedroom, where I assumed he had headed. I opened the door, and peeked my head into the door.

Almost immediately, I was caught off guard; without delay I was overwhelmed by what I saw in front of me. This was one of those times when one actually notices something they are looking at. It wasn’t just seeing, for the sake of seeing, but seeing in conjunction with observing, and with observing, understanding and recognizing.

There with his back to me, was a man. Whether it was the clean crisp neckline of his minutes-old haircut, or his solidly square jaw with the five-o’clock shadow, or that his shoulders seemed broader than usual, or that I recognized how tall and well-proportioned he was getting, or that he’s beginning to fill out his clothes, or all of those things in combination, I suddenly recognized that my little boy was becoming a man.

But just as quickly as that realization dawned, my thought was interrupted with the background from which I saw him. He was facing his desk, and slowly pulling a large Ziploc bag of pictures out of his shirt, and was about to set them on the desk where set a baseball-sized ball of “sticky tape”, and where three Power Ranger Megazords and three toy Dinosaurs held sentry positions, to guard his stack of children’s DVDs, and the ream of laminated papers – which include a 20 page list of superhero strengths and powers he wants to ask God to give him when next they meet – and cartoon pictures he cut, pasted, and printed from the Internet.

Then, just as I supposed, I juxtaposed, the dichotomy of it all.

More than ever before, I realized that each year he will continue to mature and grow more fully into manhood, all the while emotionally lingering behind in the innocent Forever-Child world where he is the perpetual-seven-year-old, and King.

When I think of how he will fit into today’s world, I shudder. The world is getting ugly, and turning upside down. Right is becoming wrong, and wrong, right. No longer do horrible things occur in the shadows, but openly for all to see – the more in-your-face the better. Respect and decorum appear to be second-hand traits that faded away with the last century, and problems are solved expressed with rhetoric, hatred, and violence.

The more I think about it, the more I’m grateful for the innocent world where he is King. Where else in today’s world can real joy be found simply with Ketchup?

Or where really rough days can be solved with a simple hug?

Now, that’s a beautiful world to behold!

It’s as Robert South said, “Innocence is like polished armor; it adorns and defends.”

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