First of all, allow me to establish the fact that there’s a whole lot crazy in my family, reaching back generations. Therefore, certain family members back home are really taking this whole Mayan thing seriously. My mom bought a canoe and a handgun, in case the world comes crumbling down and Chicago is submerged. This same 70-year-old woman even bought diapers and formula because, as she reminds me, “You never know when you’ll find a baby.”
I can’t make too much fun of her though. I must admit that a part of my reason for refusing my employer-offered/quasi-mandated flu shot was because the Mayan apocalypse was right around the corner. Come on! I mean, who’s going to accept a government-issued vaccination just two weeks before the prophesied end-of-the-world? Haven’t you seen I Am Legend, people?
But seriously, this week before the fated date has been hellish for me and for many other people. In the wake of Sandy Hook Elementary School, the school system in which I work has suffered several risk-management meeting, visits by officials, police details, and tender nerves. High schools in the area have been placed on lock-down or evacuated due to multiple bomb threats. Everyone has been on edge, including me. I’ve been awakened around 3am each morning by my own anxieties, and find myself going into work long hours just to keep myself busy.
In light of the Mayan prophesy I have to ask: Is this the kind of final week I’d want for myself? I’ve been working 11-hour days, meaning I’m out of the house about 12 hours of the day. I’ve put more stock and attention in my work life than my home life. I’ve been running myself ragged without spending much time with my son, who should be the real focus of my attention after Connecticut’s tragedy.
One moment this week really made me slow down and appreciate all I have, and realize how fragile and fleeting it all is. I had to attend a work holiday party, and so I came home just after 9pm.
“He’d like to say goodnight, if you can pop upstairs,” my wife greeted me. I tiptoed up, and found my son awake, but on the verge of drifting off.
“Hi Daddy,” he said in an etherial voice, remaining snuggly bundled in his comforter. I sat on the edge of his bed and cupped his adorable face in my hands. We simply gazed into each other’s eyes. He had that look that I see so rarely in my 6-year-old. Most parents probably know it. It’s that drunken love face. When he was younger, especially when he was an infant, he used to do it all the time. It’s that stare they give you when they’re about to drift off, in which they just can’t look away from you eyes. In most cases, they stare in the same way a drunk friend might look at you as his or her inhibitions completely break down. Sort of an, “I love you man!” kind of a look.
My son stared at me with those drunken, infatuated eyes, and I did the same. We joked back and forth about who knows what, and he laughed an inebriated chortle. We stayed like that for a good 10 minutes, staring at each other and cracking lame puns until I kissed his forehead and said goodnight. Walking downstairs I realized that I don’t see that stare much anymore. As a first grader, he’s so alert and vibrant, even when we’re saying goodnight, that his frenetic energy can sometimes get in the way of a serene end of the day. He’s becoming such a big boy that I don’t see that etherial stare or hear that quiet laughter as much as I used to. And I know there will come a day when he won’t want me cupping his cheeks or kissing his forehead.
That’s why I’m thankful today’s apocalypse. It causes me to think of worst-case-scenarios. What if disaster strikes? What if I don’t have much more time on this earth? What do I need to do to protect my family, to keep them safe? These are good questions. They help me become more mindful. They help me see what’s right in front of me and what I should cherish every day, not just on days of impending doom.
Thank you Mayans. Perhaps this is the dawn of a new age.