In the past year, I’ve come to recognize what immortality really is.
It’s not your name in print, or the impression you leave on the rest of the world, because that vanishes with time.
How many people can tell you who Geoffrey Chaucer is … and let’s go beyond, “He wrote Canterbury Tales“. My guess: not too many.
Now, that’s not to say everything you do in life is all for naught, but it’s the least important when cut down to the basics of nature.
The most natural response for the human animal is to continue its survival. And yes, that means having kids.
My wife and I will become parents for the first time in 2013. To some friends this means we will become pariahs, because we’re one of those couples who wants to continue the comedy called life.
To others, we may become closer allies as we fight the good fight called parenthood.
But to me, becoming a father means the career isn’t as important as ensuring the welfare and safety of the next generation. This is no maudlin or philosophical decree, it’s just a matter of life.
Humans tend to complicate the basics with their “rights” or differing views and lack of understanding that we are just another animal. Perhaps we think we’re a tad more sentient and dexterous than most animals due to our developed cerebral cortex or opposable thumbs. But then again, the cynic in me likes to think that’s just the folie à deux of our species.
Regardless, when I interviewed a nurse who teaches prenatal and postnatal care at one of Toronto’s hospitals for a Town Crier article, he reinforced my view that having children is the way to achieve a shred of immortality.
Part of my thinking stems from grappling with my own mortality at such a young age. I almost died at age 16 from complications arising from chicken pox. I developed varicella pneumonia, which eventually became encephalitis. I was placed in a drug-induced coma for three days and it wasn’t quite certain I’d come out of it alive, or without brain damage.
Instead, I overcame that, but was diagnosed with two new ailments: common variable immune deficiency and epilepsy. I am also aware that people with CVID have an increased risk of leukemia and chronic lung disease.
Add on battles with hemolytic anemia (the breakdown of your red cells), idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (the destruction of platelets) and aplastic anemia (the destruction of your bone marrow), and there’s a constant reminder, for me, that we’re here for a very short time.
Over the past two years I’ve grown more closer with one of my friends from my university days, mainly because we’re both media industry professionals, who have faced challenges with our chosen career path. But we continue to burden ourselves with the hope of making a name for ourselves through our craft.
He’s been a good ear, and someone who shares the fiery angst of being among the generation that has to write formulaic resumes just to get the computers to pick up the key words. That and the challenges of contracts, freelance and lateral promotions (which aren’t really promotions are they?).
In life, however, he beat me to having a kid. One of many tidbits of knowledge he has shared with me is that even though you have children, it doesn’t mean you give up everything to help rear them.
If you still have a path that you want to travel on vocationally, you can do it. Once you have children though, that path has to be traveled on your own terms, not of an outsider’s who has little knowledge or respect for your personal life.
Don’t get me wrong, I look forward to becoming a dad, bestowing my knowledge of the world, my respect for nature and art upon the one who’s going to carry 50 percent of me with her through life.
To use a novelist’s tool in telling a story, fatherhood is just another plot twist in the comedy called life — a plot twist I anticipate with anxious hope.