We were wrapping up dinner, and for an instant everything went quiet. We could sense what was happening a few moments before the rumble began. Like a family of deer grazing in a field, all suddenly pausing and turning their heads in one direction, or like hundreds of birds taking flight at the same time, fleeing some unseen menace.
When it struck, it struck hard. The blasts were concussive, like a miniature earthquake with six or seven aftershocks. Imagine a row of cannons lined up on the side of an old battleship, launching a heavy broadside. Imagine a rolling thunderstorm right outside your front door. Picture a volcano erupting (upside-down). Perhaps most accurately: imagine that scene from Independence Day when the White House gets blown up.
There’s a lot of shit in my life. I mean that literally, as in: there’s an awful lot of poop in my life. Black, brown, solid, squishy, yellow, orange, green, grainy, grassy, pasty poop…I’m an expert in all of it. Between the dog, the cat and the 11-month old, waste management takes up more time in my day than a younger me would have ever guessed in his wildest imagination. Consider: on any given day, I have poop or poop paraphernalia in my hands more often than my car keys, toothbrush or cup of coffee.
On rough days – like last week when the devastating dump described above was quickly followed by the cat having some kind of self-care breakdown and literally dragging streaks of feline feces through the house – it can feel like I’m living in the eye of a swirling storm of shit, just shoveling poop out of the way to make room for more poop. It’s tiring.
But then I turn on the news and am reminded of how comparatively easy I have it. The challenges of looking after a small baby – as far as I’ve seen – are mostly easily solvable. Little baby problems aren’t abstract, they’re concrete; not metaphysical but physical. What really scares me these days is thinking of my little stinker getting old enough to talk to people and hear about the wider world.
When I think of all the shit that parents were trying to explain to their kids last week, the shit on my hands seems positively trivial. Random acts of horrible violence. Normal people trying to escape a world of dangerous uncertainty, then being met with mass rejection from the world’s wealthiest countries. Police in my city beating the crap out of a terrified innocent man by mistake; other people burning down a house of worship out of fear and ignorance. Friends and neighbours facing prejudice and taunts because of the way they look or the way they might pray…
God, I’m so grateful he doesn’t understand any of this stuff. I don’t know what I would do, where I would begin, if he did. I just hope that the next few years will somehow prepare me for it. Because as sure as the sun rising in the east and glinting off a heavily sodden morning diaper, some other goddamn disastrous thing will happen that I will have to explain. I’ve been watching that video of the French father and son over and over and over again all week, marveling at the man’s poised assurance, hoping experience gives a parent that kind of confidence because I don’t know what else does.
This week made me thankful that I’m a few years away from having to deal with that kind of complexity. The whole world is a shitstorm; at least I can keep cleaning up the storm inside my house.