One gets up early, eats the breakfast he makes himself and slips back into his den before anyone else rises. He doesn’t say much but there is little to tell. He smiles about plans he has to meet his friends later, as dog tags from a mythical army clink around his neck. His eyes glaze as he goes out-of-body for the coerced hug, but he cheerfully takes the mail to the mailbox, and lifting the flag, lopes, as usual, to the bus stop.
Two gets up late and lingers in his room until the last minute, asking for eggs through his closed door. Once out, he smiles and banters and playfully hugs, perhaps flexing his muscles for my admiration. He keeps his friends and his life as close a secret as possible, letting information out in dribbles on a need-to-know basis. A closed book with an inviting cover, he hoists his backpack and coolly slouches toward his day.
I watch them go, and feel it in my core, seeing them in all times all at once: the wide-eyed babies, the sweet-cheeked toddlers, the winsome children, and the youths they are now. I see shades of what they will be: the young men they are becoming, perhaps fathers someday, and wonder how much of those future lives they will share with me. I torture myself, and imagine losing One or Two. I shake it off; it is like opening a vein. These daily paper cuts, “I love you, have a good day!” are painful enough.