NATCHITOCHES, La., Sept. 5, 2015 — I’m just sitting here waiting for my rhubarb-strawberry puree to cool, thinking about my life. It occurs to me that some of the events that I thought would make me happy were sort of let-downs. I remember the anxiety leading up to my doctoral defense, the culmination of over four years of hard work. And then I defended, and my dissertation chair came out and said, “Congratulations, Dr. Picht! Good job!” and I went back to my office and stared at my computer and wondered,
“Is that it? What now?”
I thought getting my first article published would be a big thrill. Nada — just the realization that I was now on the treadmill. I went to work as an adviser to foreign governments: good pay, interesting travel and perpetual exhaustion. I was almost disappointed when I found out I had received tenure at my university.
I had been thinking about all the things I could do if they cut me loose, and now I wasn’t going to do any of them.
On the other hand, getting married and having the kids both terrified me, but the memories are indescribable. There’s been a huge amount of aggravation from the kids and a lot more stress than I expected, but I can honestly say I wouldn’t trade it for all the travel my wife and I had to give up.
But ask me again after we’ve paid for college.
It’s all the little memories that add up in my mind to my life, all the stuff that comes in between the big events. My cat is staring at me right now; she’s been with me for over 20 years, a warm glow in my life. It will break my heart when she dies, but the decades she’s spent sleeping on my lap and on my face will be a fair exchange.
My wife always kisses me before she leaves in the morning, and again before bed at night, and so my days all begin and end with the token and knowledge that she loves me.
My 12-year-old daughter gives me a kiss on the cheek every night, and even my 14-year-old son gives me a hug almost every night before he goes to bed, unless I’ve really annoyed him by refusing even to consider the possibility of an iPhone 6 in his near future.
And he won’t turn on the TV unless I’m there to watch it with him.
My son complained last week that he never gets to do anything. I started to go through pictures to put together a slide show of all the things he’s never gotten to do — riding horses with his dad and grandpa in Wyoming, swimming with belugas, hiking on a glacier, zip-lining in the Pyrenees, sailing on a schooner to see whales in the Arctic — boring stuff that’s nowhere near as good as what his friends get to do.
I was amazed how many photos I have of him smiling or laughing, and even a couple of him enjoying time with his sister. They fight too much, and he’s too dour and she’s too careless and they’re both appallingly rude to their parents, but she likes to play the violin while I play the piano, and he wants so badly to impress me, and they both manage to do that from time to time.
The puree is cool. Time to put it in a bowl and go to bed. I’ll finish making the mousse tomorrow. And I need to bake a cake and write an article. My life is full, I’m content. I just wonder how long that will last.
My kids will want to start dating in a couple of years, so that probably puts an upper bound on my contentedness.
I’ll take it and be glad for it.