It is funny how a name sticks with you. Your parents leafed through pages of books and consulted wise family members to choose a good one for you (now we surf the Internet) and voila! Slapped on the back, you clear your airways and enter the world with a voracious yell. Your name is bestowed. It becomes distinctly you and you are that name. My son was given a name – Ethan. Now, despite the infinite choices that bombarded us and some which nearly stuck, it is clear that he could have never been any other thing – Ethan was the only possibility.
“Windows into the soul” is what they call them… eyes that is. He sports two magnificent specimens. They’re wonderfully formed into almonds – that’s what people constantly say. I’ve never thought much of almonds before, but now I think they’re beautiful. His eyes are topped with a double serving of eyelids and long lashes that would make any mascara masquerading teenager green with envy.
Before he could talk he would speak volumes with those eyes. They could wrench your heart from the cavity of your chest, and just as easily melt it while you crumbled to the floor. They were his voice, but they were also his weapons – wielded as skilfully as any stone that flew from sling to a giant’s head. Yes, whole armies of our frustration and anger were felled with those eyes. Yet weapons also reveal weakness, and his too opened wide marvellous gateways into the fortress of his soul. He didn’t mind you see, for this young boy instinctively trusted the two giants who named him. When he could talk he would scamper energetically around the living room loudly declaring which toys he would conquer next. “I’m not sleepy!” announced the trumpeted cry, but his eyes gave him away. Those windows into his soul were wide as ever, but they became ever so lightly cloudy and moved imperceptibly slower. They were his downfall, telegraphing state of affairs more true than even he knew. Bundling him up amidst frequent protests we would ship him off to be imprisoned in the wooden cage that frames his bed.
There he sits. Defeat rapidly turns to delight as he takes in familiar surroundings. Mr. Turtle and Twinkle Star beckon in a restful routine of bedtime congeniality. “Daddy, come inside?” This request combines the power of his inviting voice and those irresistible eyes pulling me to leave my realm and enter his world – his cot. I can rarely resist this cosmic pull, and why should I want to? No, I abandon myself to this futility, stepping over the rails and curling up beside my bundle of laughter and happy giggles. We lie down nose to nose and our eyes meet. This is love.
The next morning he greets me far too early with energy exceeding my sleepy state. Those eyes are bright and full of expectant glee for what the day will bring. “Ethan, I have a surprise for you!” The almonds grow wide and glassy. Like pools of ink they brim with words describing all that a young boy could ever want. It could be a car ride, a new toy, or a visit to grandma’s house – these are all wonderful things but most of all he’s happiest to have special times with Daddy. It’s funny how the ordinary things are most remembered and requested. A broad smile frames expectant eyes when he senses the possibility of washing Daddy’s car or having that picnic with Daddy’s fire cooking bacon for Ethan.
His eyes look a little sadder recently. I am on the opposite side of the world and we cannot share the special things that only Daddy does. Pixels substitute play-time and digitized voices just don’t replace those universe-shattering bed times. “Jesus, thank you for Daddy in America” he prays. “I miss Daddy because only Daddy comes inside.” His bed is there and I am here. I stare in the mirror and subtract three decades of puffy bags and surrounding lines. There they are. At least I have his eyes.