Imagine that--every small object in an entire house placed either at three feet or higher above the ground! You are proud to have done that. Except, of course, this slip of the jingle bell. You don't know how it happened to stick to your slipper, but you resolve to search the house for choking hazards.
When you get back, of course. At the moment you are prepping to ride.
You inflate the tires and give the bike a once over, the kind necessary after weeks of neglect. You find your gear; you lack several things--things you put off getting because you never have time to go to the bike shop. Chamois butter, for instance.
But no problem. You avail yourself of your son's Butt Paste. Perhaps your rash will subside nicely, as your son's did when you began slathering this on at every changing. You literally stuck your finger in his tiny little area and slathered. That is what you did.
On your bike, for once in a blue moon, you have no plan except to be back with some time to clean the bottles and do the laundry, to fight a bit of chaos, as you must every day, or be consumed entirely by it.
It is three days after Christmas and warm enough to ride without shoe covers, without even a hat.
The thought comes to you as you struggle up the Cupcake Climb: sometime recently you looked in the mirror and were surprised to find a beard there. Not a growth. Not a manscaped lumbersexual beard, edged, pruned, brushed and spritzed with English Leather or whatever. No. What you had there there was kudzu raging out of the ditch your mouth has become, because what parent ever has time to floss or to brush calmly, systematically? When was your last trip to the dentist?
Back to the beard. You don't know how it just appeared on your haggard face. Sometime after the last time you looked in the mirror and now, it just emerged on your face.
You glance at your Garmin. Your heart rate-to-speed ratio is disappointing. Since when did you hit your max at 22 mph on MacArthur with a tailwind?
Since you began subsisting on leftover baby food and carry out tacos. Since you allowed a baby into bed with you. Since you rode your bike in a bi-monthly manner.
You are the dadwolf. You don't howl at the moon, though, except when reading Goodnight Moon. And your transformation makes you weaker, much weaker. And no wonder, with your diet of half-chewed baby food, sporadic exercise, and constant daycare-sponsored illnesses.
And you don't sleep.
Why don't you sleep? You don't sleep because your baby is a glutton who screams for food and/or affection three times a night. And sometimes you bring your baby into bed with you, and babies love nothing more than to fart and sit their wet, leaky diapers on your face, to kick in the head and groin and all the tender, yielding parts you have. They are filthy, tiny, milk guzzling beasts.
Then there is the mental aspect of it. It is hard to feel like an elite athlete when you are busy catching regurgitated applesauce in your hand, smearing genuine human feces on and off the diaper bin, catching snot in rags and urine in tubs and towels and T-shirts.
As you cross One Lane Bridge you surmise that, annually, you alone have already used more paper towels than are exported into South Sudan.
You are hardly lean, precise, clean, and aero. You are not aero. That is the last thing you are. You cannot swoop through a little European village at 30 miles per hour, every portion of your body buffed and glistening with being pampered.
|Photo: Brian Harris/Alamy|
You can't swoop through a town like that when you are a dad.
Then again, dads do swoop through towns like that. Tejay van Garderen won the Tour of California shortly after the birth of his daughter, and Nibali won the Tour this year--five months after the birth of his daughter.
This morning, around 4:30am when he woke, you helped your son put shapes through holes. Only certain shapes fit through certain holes. He grew frustrated, assuming that, with enough effort, all shapes can fit through all holes. A triangle, you showed him, cannot fit through a square hole. A star shape can only fit in a star hole. Still, he tried, and did not concede. Days of not conceding to the law of non-contradiction.
There was a sadness in showing him the futility of his efforts. You were, on one hand, showing him how this world works; on the other, you were showing him that there are limits. The world is not infinitely yielding. Even God, logicians tell us, cannot do some things.
His frustration mounted.
You were somehow warmed by it. Somehow we are born believing everything is possible. Seeing the world without lenses or categories. The spark of undimmed meaning--that is what it is--dims as we pile knowledge into boxes and cells in the spreadsheets of our mind.
Your son was inconsolable, there in the early morning darkness, and you picked him up and groaned with weariness and age. You held him so he could see the lights on the tree, each ornament glowing. You walked to the window and pointed to the moon and he pointed, saying "mboon mboon."
You feel it, the warmth of his eagerness, your small fire, the spark that lights us all even through decades of dampness, clinging as a bell somehow attached to a sock, a morning bike ride on a road a thousand times ridden, through oblivion.