Things are weird.
Yesterday I looked out my front door and noticed the grass on my neighbor's lawn was a full inch shorter than mine. My jaw tightened. My eyes shrunk to slits. There was a slight quiver in the pockets of my cargo shorts as the anticipation rippled through the body that I've spent the last half decade cultivating into two hundred and thirty pounds of straight up dad meat.
That twang of irritation insisted on a simple solution. My grass could not be higher than my neighbor's.
In the garage there's a swoop of fabric as the cover is whipped from my Husqvarna. Its orange paint is coated in a layer of dust. Grass clippings rest atop the mowing deck. The hard plastic accents are freckled with grit and dried water spots. It needs detailing, but I'm not at that level yet. One step at a time.
After thirty minutes of mowing and another twenty of weed eating I stand on my porch and gaze across the green landscape. Now things are right. The playing field is even. Pun intended.
Over the past few years I've noticed certain changes taking place in my thought processes and decision making. There are even changes in my environment. For one, my shoes are turning white. Two years ago I was wearing black shoes. The next thing I know, my preference turned to gray and then, dear God, light gray. The path to glowing white shoes draws nigh.
Another is that my biggest concern on our summer vacation is how to most efficiently deliver our supplies to our spot on the beach. I'm a pack mule. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
I can't grill without a beer. The thought of it disgusts me.
I'm comfortable wearing tank tops outside though I really, really shouldn't be.
I can physically feel it when a light is left on in an unoccupied room.
I find myself referring to my son as "buddy" or "big guy" more and more. "Tiger" and "sport" are just around the corner. I can feel it like a tickle in the back of my throat when I try to talk to him.
My legs are turning white. Like, bone white.
A few weeks ago I unknowingly bought a pair of shorts with an elastic waistband. They were cargo shorts. Columbia brand.
I've grown tolerant of country music. There are a handful of songs that I even like.
I already don't know where all my tools are, and my junk drawer is overflowing with things I haven't used in years but ones that I know I'll need again someday.
When I can't find a tool I stomp through the house, pissed off that "Nobody can ever find anything around here."
But this one, though, is the kicker. The other day my son showed me a picture of a deer in his new book, and as a reflex I immediately replied "Oh deer." He laughed! I've been slinging dad jokes since I met the kid, and he's finally to the age that he gets the jokes. These next few years are going to be awesome.
But still, the road to ultimate dadhood is a long one. Soon the jean shorts aisles will be calling to me in clothing stores. The tank tops will become too restrictive, and I'll need to lose them altogether. I will blossom out of them like a butterfly from a cocoon and when I do, I will instinctively know that I need to wash and wax the lawnmower after each use. I will know to complain about keeping the front door closed to save money on the energy bill. I will know to pull my hat over my eyes when in my recliner, and to tell my kids that "I'm not sleeping, I'm resting my eyes" or "I'm gonna stare at the back of my eyelids for a while."
Statements like "That's how they get you," "Let's get this show on the road," "Do you want me to give you something to cry about?" "They don't make 'em like they used to," "That's not going anywhere," and "Oh no, I think we'll have to amputate" are in the larval stages of growth somewhere in my mind. They're nudging against other requests like "You buying ours too?" when seeing co-workers at a restaurant during lunch, and the classic "Working hard or hardly working?" when passing someone in the office.
Inevitably there will come a time when a severe thunderstorm will roll through town. On that day, long after this phoenix has risen from the ashes of early fatherhood, while my family has already holed up in the storm shelter, I will step onto my front lawn and watch the clouds and rain move closer. I will stand tall and proud as if I could shield my family from the oncoming maelstrom with the strength of my World's Greatest Dad coffee mug, my collared shirt (painstakingly tucked into my khaki shorts), and my blinding white shoes with their accents of smeared lawn grass. Hopefully after an intense stare down I'll surrender to the storm and head in with my family. But you know, who really knows the true power of fatherhood? Could I take the storm?