When He Was Five
When he was 30, he brought Morgan to stay with me. He had to take a trip and Mary was very busy at work. She had a couple important meetings to prepare for and needed some uninterrupted time at home alone for that.
I wondered about that. I asked Tyler if anything was wrong at home. He said of course not. I wondered why, then, they wanted Morgan to stay with me for a week. Mary had plenty of time at work to prepare for meetings.
“She thought it would be good for you to have him for a week. She thought you were looking sad again. But I wasn’t supposed to tell you. Don’t tell her I did.”
He held Morgan in his arms and kissed and tickled him. Seeing them together was about the best thing ever. They were perfect together, and their love radiated.
He told Morgan he would be staying with me for a week while he was busy with things Morgan wouldn’t be able to help him with. He told Morgan he’d miss him, and asked if Morgan would miss him too.
“I’ll miss you, Daddy, but I love Grandpa. I’ll take care of him while you’re gone.”
“Good. I love Grandpa too. And I love you, Morgan.”
Morgan was five. He looked so much like Tyler had at that age, I could confuse the two in my head if I allowed myself to.
Morgan was hunting. He had a long stick he’d found out back for a rifle and he was wearing an old hat of mine with newspaper jammed inside to make it fit. I asked him, “Why the hat?”
“A hunter on TV had a hat like this.”
“What are you hunting?”
“Tigers are pretty fierce. You sure you want to hunt them?”
“Sure. I’m very brave. If I see one, I’ll shoot him.”
“What if he wants to be your friend instead?”
Morgan had to think about that. “Oh,” he said seriously. “Well, if he wants to be my friend, then I won’t shoot him. I’ll play with him, and bring him home so you can feed him. He can sleep in my bed with me. Is that all right?”
“That’s just the way I’d do it, Morgan. The exact way.”
Morgan smiled at me. Then he went back to hunting tigers. In the living room. I asked him if there wasn’t a better chance of finding tigers in the basement. He thought about it, then said no. He said it was far too scary for tigers, down in the basement.
He liked to go to the park. We’d walk there together, him telling me about his friends and what he liked to eat for dessert and which colors he liked and how girls and boys were different and what school he was going to next year and why the clouds didn’t fall on us. He didn’t need much of a response other than a “hmm” or an “ahhh” to keep him going. He liked to rub against my leg, now and then, on our walk to the park.
He wanted to swing very very high as long as it wasn’t too high, which was scary. He liked to go on the merry-go-round but not too fast. His fingers turned white, holding on to the metal supports, but he laughed. He liked playing in the sandbox, especially when there were other boys to play with. He liked that a lot. Sometimes, if there were several boys, arguments would break out. Morgan didn’t like the arguing and would try to be the peacemaker. He’d talk to the other boys and calm them down. It always surprised me, seeing him do that. But he did it as if by instinct, and it almost always worked. He was serious and thoughtful and would find a way to change the reason for the argument into some new business that everyone would get interested in and the argument would simply got lost in whatever new activity he invented. Morgan was five.
There was a woods in the park to walk in. There were trails, and we’d walk and look at the trees, and at a brook that would wind along by the path. We could occasionally see rabbits and squirrels if we went at the right time of day. He saw a snake once. I thought he’d run back to me when he did, but instead he crouched down so he could see it better. He talked about that for the next three days, and the excitement never left his voice.
There was a bridge over the brook and he liked to throw sticks in the water, then run to the other side of the bridge and watch them float out. He could do that for an hour and still enjoy it. I told him his father used to do the same thing. He looked up at me with something like amazement in his eyes.
“Really? He used to do that, too?”
“Really, Morgan. And you know what? He looked almost exactly like you do, back then. You’re what they call a spitting image of him. He was the most handsome boy I’d ever seen, till you came along. Now I know two perfect boys, one in my memory and you here now.”
“He looked like me?”
“Exactly like you.”
He smiled, and looked out across the brook, into the woods and maybe far beyond, maybe through the years back at a little boy standing on the same bridge many years ago.
He cuddled up in my lap before bedtime. He liked me to read him stories. He’d watch the pages just like Tyler had, whether or not there were pictures. He smelled clean after his bath. He didn’t ask what color pajamas I was going to wear. He didn’t know that game yet. Maybe he’d learn it. Maybe not.
“Tell me about my daddy, Grandpa.”
“What story to you want to hear?”
“About the beach, when he was my age.”
“I tell you that story all the time. You know it by heart. Why don’t we do another one?”
“I like that story best.”
So I told him again.
He wriggled a little in my arms, on my lap, getting as comfortable as possible, his blond curls against my chest. After the story, he didn’t say anything for awhile. He sat there thinking, as did I. We were both in a world that had passed some 25 years before.
“Do you know what I like about that story?” he asked me. “The best part?”
“No I don’t. What is it?”
“Most of the time, babies are just born. Sometimes, the parents go and pick out a baby or a little boy and adopt him. But daddy and you, it was different. This time, the boy chose his own daddy. Not the other way around. I like that. He chose you, and you chose him. I really like that he chose you.”
“I hadn’t thought about it just like that. But you know, I like it too. And you know what else? When I chose him, it was the best choice I ever made. Ever, in the whole world.”