I saw a dead Cardinal at the gas station this morning. It seems that it flew into the gas station window and died on impact. Normally dead birds don’t cause much reflection to me, but seeing a beautiful Cardinal, not a daily thing in a state with precious few pretty birds, really caught me off guard. As insignificant as the death of one random bird may be to most, it did cause me to reflect more than normal and hash out some feelings I’ve had for some time.
As I’m growing up I keep running into things that I feel shouldn’t be happening in and around me yet. A shocking amount of friends of mine are either already divorced or stuck in a marriage headed for one. People around me keep getting sick or dying. Every time a new occurrence of death or divorce happens in my life I keep unintentionally thinking, aren’t I too young for this to keep happening?
I recently turned 31 years old and still don’t think of myself as a man. Sure I’ve got many of the responsibilities of what most would classify as an adult: house, wife, kids, job and a cat, but I still feel, in my head, like I haven’t reached the title of man yet and I don’t know if I ever will.
As a small boy I have a very strong memory of holding my father’s left hand in church and studying it intently. How his veins looked. The callouses. The wrinkles. The age. This, I thought, was what a man’s hand looks like. His hands tell a story of the life he’s lived.
Do my hands looks like my father’s did then? I don’t know. Maybe, but probably not.
To me, the title of man has an almost reverential quality to it. Sure I’m older now and would surely be classified as a man by many, but to me, I still feel like a boy. I’m more tired than I used to be and a little less crazy, but I’m still a kid looking for the approval of friends and family and the people in my life I’ve always looked to as men.
Maybe after all those people pass away I’ll feel I’ve reached it and that a torch has been passed? Maybe when I’ve stopped chasing down ice cream trucks on foot? Or maybe when the weight of the world and life finally causes me to reach a threshold that breaks something in me that can’t be repaired?
I don’t mean to sound like the title of man is synonymous with pain, misery or not having fun, but it does have a quality to it that is something I aspire to be. I suppose it’s different for all. Semantics and all that.
I guess with the older I get physically, mentally I still feel like I’m 18 years old. When will I feel like I’ve grown up? When will I finally feel like I’ve earned the title of man?
So far I’ve learned that growing up isn’t nearly as fun as I’d hoped as a kid. The ongoing deaths and disappointments of life with friends and family brings truth to the statement that ignorance is bliss.
I guess I just want to be someone to my son that he feels is deserving of the title man. That he will reflect on me as an adult himself and see that his father, a grown boy, will have always fought for what is right and just and was never afraid of anything or anyone.
Maybe I’ll never reach the title of man in my own mind, but so long as I can make it count in the mind of the boy most important to me, I’ll have achieved my goal. To be a superhero with no powers. To be a man. That’s a legacy worth fighting for.