There’s still time to race the lightning

Getting older doesn't mean you have to give up on life

When it came it was a welcome diversion. My son’s armies were huge, on my borders, unstoppable.

“What’s that?”

A flash lit up the night outside and the thunder roared again.

“This is hopeless. I resign,” I said. “Let’s put the computers away and go out to the swingy chair to watch the storm!”

The chair is at the other building, under a porch, looking out at the mountain. It should be a great show. We looked out the door. The rain was pelting down. It was about 100 metres to our destination.

“Run for it!” I said, and we did, pelting across the asphalt, the rain spattering in our faces.

FLASH! CRACK!

It seemed like it was right on top of us, out in the middle of the open ground.

“Run Dad!”

And that’s when I felt it, his steadying hand at my back, pushing me towards safety. It was a reflex thing I guess, certainly a gesture of love, but once we scampered to relative safety under the porch it made me think.

My son was protecting me, not I protecting him. Our roles were reversed. At least an inch taller than me, he wasn’t my little baby anymore. He was a young man now. So what did that make me?

Suddenly, I felt so very, very old.

We snuggled under the blankets while the lightning arced again and the thunder boomed, but my thoughts weren’t really on the show.

Old? Me, the kayak paddling, cave exploring, mushroom picking, octopus-hunting, ghost-busting cougar rancher? I frowned. I had noticed that some waitresses and the ladies at the till had taken to calling me hon and quite a few people have commented on my greying hair. But me? Old? Impossible!

The sky lit up again as a searing bolt snapped to earth and the sky boomed.

“Uh, dad …”

How had this happened? Years upon years of being in the moment, those moments piling up. The weight felt crushing.

“Dad! You realize this swingy chair is completely made of metal, right? This is probably the absolutely very worst place we could possibly be right now! It’s like a giant barbecue!”

SNAP! RUMBLE!

“Uh, right. Maybe we should make a break for it back to the house.”

“We’ll go for it right after the next flash!”

And we waited. It wouldn’t be long.

I smiled as we got to our feet. Old? Yeah, maybe, but you know, I felt like that when I turned 20, too and 25 and 30 and 40 and 50, each time wondering anew how I’d ever managed to get so ancient.

Yet right here, right now, I was standing in the dark with my son, ticking off the seconds until once more we would race the lightning.

SIZZLE! BANG!

“Now dad! Run!”

I laughed as  I pounded across the pavement. You’ve still got it, old man.