Thursday, November 20, 2008

a heart that beats

Colm and I got out of the shower at the public pool this evening. I draped a towel over his skinny shoulders, and I dried myself off. He stood shivering. When I removed his towel and started to rub him down, he said, "Daddy, I can feel my heart beating."
"That's a good thing." I chuckled. "You know why?"
"Cause it means you're alive." I tousled his hair. "You know what it means if you're heart's not beating don't you?"
"It means you're dead."
"If you're heart stops, you're dead?"
"That's right, Colmie. If it ain't tickin', you dead."
Colm considered for a moment then, "My heart won't stop until I'm big."
"Your heart is gonna beat a long, long time. It's never gonna stop."
"Yes it will. Everybody's heart stops."
Colm loves to be the exacting contrarian. In this case I had to concede his point. "You're right."
We went about the business of putting on our clothes in silence. I was passing Colm dry clothes, stepping over puddles on the cement floor, mulling over our mortality. It turns out I wasn't the only one. Colm broke the silence, "Daddy?"
"Yeah, Colm?"
"Who is the littlest person you know who died?"
I looked at him. I thought back. A couple of news articles flashed into my head, but those were tabloid, not worthy of Colm's query. What finally came to me, came out of my mouth without hardly any screening.
"You know our friends Tan and Jer?" I said.
Colm nodded.
"Well, they had a baby right after Piper and before Gage. He died."
"When did he die?"
"Right at the start Colm. He didn't have very long."
It was as if Colm had received the answer he'd been waiting for. He sighed. "Well, at least he had one day."
Both of us sort of paused there in empty locker room, half dressed, me standing there in my bare feet, Colm sitting on the bench, trying to pull socks over his damp soles.
"Yeah." I said feeling a lump form in my throat. All I could think to do was take my towel and rub his hair vigorously, trying to forestall the chill that I knew was waiting for him outside in the cold, dark November air.


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