It’s time to turn off the power tools, put down the toilet seat, and stop tossing the Victoria’s Secret catalogs in the trash, because the women who are our children are coming home for Christmas. The order of things will be chaos, estrogen will once again be in the ascendance, my Samsung “Official TV of the NFL” remote control will be in some woman’s hands, and I will be a happy man.
Never is my life more disrupted than when they blow through the door and take the place over, and never has surrender been such fun. It involves learning that my power tools would look better pink, that having land line telephones is really so over, Dad, and the floor is not really for walking. Our home has plenty of couches and chairs, but where do they sit to chat with my wife? On the kitchen floor, sprawled between me and the fridge with Christmas wrapping paraphernalia littering every open space.
I try to listen to “my guys” Shannon, Boomer, Coach and Dan analyze the last week’s football games on “The NFL Today” and where does the three-woman conversation about wedding color schemes move? From the kitchen floor onto the couch beside me, because, they explain, they know how much I want to hear their perspective on football.
Then, during the Patriots’ football game when I’m trying to hear the commentators explain how Tom Brady reads pass coverage, what do I hear instead from the estrogen section of the home bleachers about the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback? Not about the way he can plant a laser-guided smart bomb on a streaking Randy Moss 65 yards away. No, what I hear about Tom is how good he looks from the back in tight pants.
Their presence in it changes my home and reminds me how much the world they are taking over has changed around me. They don’t even speak of choosing between a family and a career; that they will have a choice of either or both is a given. They read the newspaper on their computers, their friends come from multiple cultures and religions, and whether you are gay or straight means nothing to them compared to whether you are a good person. They drive small cars if they drive at all, take public transit as a reflex and would not be caught dead driving a gas-guzzling Hummer. They recycle as the norm, and know the environment that keeps us alive will not survive if we keep treating it like a huge Dumpster.
They vote pragmatism and the person over political party and see the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States as proof the old ways are appropriately dead. They are smart, principled, hardworking and hold few biases; when one adds about 15 years to their experience and millions of young people like them to the equation, they amount to a generation that inspires my confidence in the future of this country.
As I soak up the happy hubbub around me this Christmas, however, it will all be bittersweet. The joy in their homecoming reminds me Christmases with all of us together will be ever less common in the years ahead. My joy in their development as adults reminds me their time is coming and mine is passing. As I see their confidence and skills grow I am reminded that they are acquiring those things so they will not need their parents to clear their path in the world. As I see their generation’s fitness to run this country grow, I know they are preparing to run it when my generation no longer can or should.
With all of this they have begun to give me that most sad and wonderful of all gifts children can give to their parents; comfort and peace of mind letting them go into a future we will not share. As I gather this Christmas with my children I am given the gift of knowing that even though they are slipping out of my hands, when I am gone their futures will be in better hands — their own.
Erik Steele, D.O., a physician in Bangor, is chief medical officer of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems and is on the staff of several hospital emergency rooms in the region. He is also the interim CEO at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital.