30 Years Today

A morning like any other, but not at all, since J and I have an argument. We’re both strung out. He’s been working without a break for almost five weeks, covering a story. A snowy day, a car crash, a death, a man on trial. That story will air and J’s role in it will be over and he’ll come home. He says to our son, I’ll see you tonight. I’ll be late, but I’ll be here. We talked, weeks ago, about what S will call him. I use “Daddy” all the time. He’s not so sure. Your Dad was Daddy, he says. That’s why I like it, I tell him. That surprises him. Isn’t there only one Daddy? But now that S is here, there’s a living, loving Daddy around, every day, who comes home. Late, but he comes home. Why do we argue? We’re tired. Why don’t we skip the argument and just hug and say I love you? Because we’re exhausted and he’s not slept and I’m terribly, terribly sad today. But the end of the argument, there we are, hugging, saying I love you, while S sits on my lap and smiles at the screen, at a photo of his Granddaddy helping to push a sled so that we can pull our sisters and feel strong, powerful, with an I-can-do-this sort of feeling, so that we can always, always know that he is here, giving us that little push while we pull and hug and love each other. Why does thirty years—thirty years! since the snowy day, the car crash, the death—feel different from twenty-nine, and why again does this year feel so strange and so close and so sad? And here’s S again, smiling, his natural mode, and I think he’s thinking about the snow on the screen, the snow at the lake house, his Daddy lifting him high to the tree to see the snow-tipped branch up close.