A Father's Moment Of Contemplation
From the Print Edition:
Chuck Norris, Jul/Aug 98
Like those who have shared their Great Moments in this space in the past, I, too, have felt the desire to light up for reasons great and small. However, as an asthmatic and a husband whose wife (for some reason she hasn't told me yet) would like to keep him around a few more years, my cigar indulgences are few and, alas, far between. Needless to say, I like to savor every cigar I can smoke without her reminding me that air can be a very precious commodity--especially at those times when I'm not able to get any. So on those occasions when you do find me smoking a cigar, more often than not, I am in solitude, reflecting rather than celebrating. I had one such moment in the fall of 1994.
In mid-September, my wife had given birth to our second and youngest child. He came into the world with all his fingers, all his toes, and gave a hell of a scream when it came time for his Apgar test. Despite these initial signs of health, he decided to cause trouble. From the onset, it appeared that Joey had somehow inherited his father's unique ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The first diagnosis was transient tachypnea and pneumonia. The final diagnosis--following some time-lapse lab tests--was staph aureus meningitis. (This story ends happily: today Joey is happy, healthy, and content to be a mischievous three-year-old.)
Though the memories of that time persist, I also carry with me the memory of a warm, early-October night. Earlier that day, we'd been told that our son could come home the next day and meet his older brother. Anticipation, relief, joy, uncertainty--all these and more feelings seemed to crowd into my day, and my wife's as well.
After reading our oldest son a story and tucking him in, my wife called it a night. Still running on nervous energy, I opted to channel-surf in the hopes of boring myself to sleep. An hour later, I was bored--but no less restless. I wanted to go to sleep, but I still couldn't bring myself to get some shut-eye. So, being desperate, I did a desperate thing.
After about 15 minutes of meandering around my unkempt cellar, I came to an important realization: No matter how restless, bored and frustrated I was, I sure as hell didn't feel like cleaning anything. So what next?
Books. I walked to my bookcase for a book and noticed a box of Fuentes on top of the bookcase. They were opened, but untouched. Like my father, I am superstitious; when my son arrived in my home, the cigars would be given out, not before. Then again, my father is no fool: Just because everybody else can't have a Fuente doesn't mean he wouldn't have sampled the goods himself. I lifted a Fuente from the box and unwrapped it--I am, after all, my father's son.
Placing the cigar in my mouth and rolling it around for a few seconds, I tasted the end. I hadn't had a cigar for 11 months. I walked upstairs, content to savor the taste of this exceptional cigar. When I saw the matches on the counter, I was no longer content just to taste. I picked up the matches and headed out to survey the back forty.
Well, "back forty" is a bit of a misnomer. The backyard was 286 feet by 60 feet, a heavily grassed bowling alley of a backyard. The landscaping was typical of suburban New Jersey homes--two mature trees that produced twice their weight in dead leaves each fall, and a scattering of young to moderately mature fruit and ornamental trees. Mowing was a nightmare, raking a near-Herculean task.
I lit the cigar and listened. All around me were the sounds, sights and smells of Jersey suburbia in early fall: the chirping of crickets, the calls of neighbors trying to bring their pets in, the rabbits scurrying across my backyard to take shelter under the shed, and the elegant smell of my newly lit cigar. I closed my eyes, and thought.
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