William Brooks remembers a time before his divorce when his world revolved around his sons.
“Time is money.” This is an old adage that most people have heard at some point in their life, perhaps even using it themselves. Just looking at it grammatically, it is a simile. A simile is used to compare two things that are similar or equal. So in this sense, time and money are either equal or so similar that they could be used interchangeably to represent an idea or concept.
Now, looking at it from a mathematical perspective time=money. They are one and the same. Time. Money. If asked the question “which is more important or valuable to you, time or money” the typical response most commonly given is this: Time is a commodity that I use to make money. If I lose any amounts of time, I lose the ability to make money. Expanding on this point, money is a commodity that if lost can be regained over time. But time, once lost, is gone…Forever. And no amount of money can ever buy it back. From this perspective, time emerges as the more valuable to be in possession of.
But for those of us living in exile, time is a most cruel enemy. My sons, Tristan and Nathan had become my life. Of course I loved them, as would any father love his children, but it went beyond just mere filial love. It was a much deeper, stronger bond. The more time we spent together, the more time I cared for them and became intimately involved in the daily details of their lives, we, me and my sons, grew dependent on this interaction and it became ingrained into our very being as necessary for the continuance of life as air and water. This transformation of my relationship with Tristan and Nathan began, I would say, in their toddler years and was strengthened and magnified when my ex-wife started spending less time at home and showing me and the boys less attention, as it turned out, due to her illicit affair.
After some time, the mind gets used to a daily routine that is repeated over and over day after day, comes to expect it. From daybreak to sundown, I performed my tasks: major domo, chef, maid, chauffeur. To the outsider, the schedule could seem rather grueling, the compensation paltry. But I didn’t count the cost. Yes, it did keep me busy, and I did stay tired most of the time, but I loved my sons, so for me, it was a labor of love. Not some obligatory function that I was forced to undertake, I enjoyed these mundane tasks, loved serving my sons, providing for their needs, and the love and appreciation they showed me in return was reward enough. It actually became an integral part of the foundation of my life. If taken away it would shake me to the very core of my existence.
Waking up before dawn, every morning the first essential thing was to start a pot of coffee. I would stand quietly in the doorway of my boy’s room, watching them with pride and affection as they gathered together their last few winks of sleep. After several minutes of savoring this experience I strolled softly over to their bed, stooped down and kissed them on the cheeks, waking them from pleasant dreams I greeted them with, “Good morning Tris, Good morning Nay-Nay, time to get up.” As they began to rouse from their sleep, in that limbo land when they are half-sleep and half-awake, I started to help them put on their outfits for school, which I had very carefully laid out for them the previous night.
On went the pants first. Followed by the shirt, which, with arms outstretched, provided an excellent tickling opportunity. Next came the socks and shoes, and I could not resist the temptation to play “little piggy” with their toes, to the cries of my oldest, Tris proclaiming, “Dad, stop, I’m too old for that.” Oh yes, eight going on 18. After dressing, we would walk the short distance down the hall into the kitchen to eat breakfast.
The morning fare consisted of a choice of oatmeal, toaster strudel, or cold cereal. While the boys were enjoying their meal I checked their backpacks to ensure all was as it should be: paper, notebooks, pencils, textbooks, and a snack usually consisting of fruit snacks or teddy grahams. Small talk normally accompanied. The boys asked me what we were going to do when they got home from school. School was completely by-passed in their minds, as their thoughts turned to, “Dad can we play rough?” This was the highlight of their day, our playtime in the afternoons. As the boys rushed off to brush their teeth, I rinsed their dishes, loading them into the dishwasher. After a quick cursory check to verify they actually brushed their teeth as opposed to just wetting the brush, we went outside and climbed into my F-150 club cab, warmed up and ready to go. Tris and Nate used to love riding in this truck, as they felt like they were on top of the world looking down at life below. The elementary school was very close, so it was just a five minute ride. Rolling to a stop in front of the main entrance I would make sure both had their backpacks, kiss them on the forehead saying, “I love you, have a good day at school.” “Love you too, Dad, bye,” they would say as they clambered down the side rail on to the sidewalk. I would stay and watch them until they passed the assistant principal who would often wave to me and usher the boys into the safety of the building. The next part of my day was mundane. I worked as a supervisor in a quality control lab for a medium-sized family owned construction company. The job was tolerable enough; it paid the bills, but was not why I had gone to college. I was trained and certified to be a teacher, but you don’t always get to do what you would like in this life.
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This selection comes from a chapter of William Brooks’ book, My Life in Exile.