To those out there who are parents, this entire entry will most likely come as no surprise. For those who are not, consider it a lesson in reality. And, as a supplemental note, this first bit of news will is news only to those who aren’t in the loop around here…


Patrick has a second date scheduled for Saturday afternoon. And yes, for those wondering, “date” was the exact term that was used for the first and for this second one. My fifteen-year-old son is dating, albeit at his own pace, which means the third date may not happen until sometime in May.


I’ll be honest: it’s caused me to stop and wander down the dusty trail of memory a bit. It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was a toddler, running around the house, being precocious, chatty and curious about everything. Okay, so these days, he’s just older, but everything else pretty much holds true.


But he’s 15. I’ve had a son for 15 years. Hell…I’ve had a wife for almost 18 years. We’ve been together for 20 years in just two months. I’ve had twins for very nearly 12 years. Or, and here’s a kicker: the cat turns 21 this week. None of that seems possible.


Why doesn’t it seem possible? Because somehow time and memory gets compressed as you get older. That’s the only rational explanation.


I think of Patrick in school, and his eight years at IDDS downtown are a single block, even though there were different teachers, classrooms, experiences, and events. Then, a new block, transitioning to 8th grade in Roseville, then high school. And that’s already almost done with the second year. But in my head it’s still just one solid block of experiences.


God knows that I can’t isolate all of the days of the 20 years Jenni have been together, but there are highlights, lowlights and events that stick out, pinpointing the timeline that has been compressed there. I can recall our first date in almost complete detail and very clearly–or at least as it has been saved in my head, so there is room for error–so it still feels very fresh in my head, even though it isn’t.


Patrick’s birth and the girls’ birth stick out. But only some of my wedding day–selected highlights from the day, but not the whole thing. I recall holding the two kittens I had to choose from on the day I got Pippin, and I recall my interactions with them, but I don’t recall actually purchasing Pippin, or even getting her home, for that matter. I remember packing the girls in the back seat of the car to bring them home. But I don’t remember bringing Patrick home. I remember the first Christmas meal I cooked for Jenni, and I remember the restaurant we ate at for her 21st birthday when I proposed, but I don’t remember what we ate there.


Does your memory, in the process of compressing things down to make it all fit and be easily retrievable, throw out the unimportant facts that somehow your subconscious knows you won’t need? At that dinner for Jenni’s birthday, at the Windows On Minnesota restaurant at the top of the IDS Center downtown, I only remember that I’d proposed at the apartment, and at dinner, we had a free bottle of champagne, and were looking out over the lakes in southwest Minneapolis. Why is that all important, but the dinner or dessert wasn’t?


Oh, I know that there are tricks and exercises you can do to improve your memory. But there has to be a point where your brain just starts taking it upon itself to say there isn’t any more room to remember things. Otherwise, we’d recall every waking moment after birth.


But I digress. Patrick’s dating. That’s important, regardless of how it turns out. It’s a landmark in his life, and he won’t realize that until he’s thinking of these things 25 or 30 years down the road. The girls turning 12 isn’t in itself a big deal, except that somehow they’re still stuck in my head as little girls needing a lot of protecting. And I have to remind myself constantly that they aren’t.


THAT is just part of parenting, though. I know that much.


See you tomorrow.



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4 responses to “Compression”

  1. Peggy Lathrop Avatar
    Peggy Lathrop

    Just wait till you are over 60!!! Now that is ultra compression….
    Sometime we will reminisce about your early days and what we remember of your children’s and of your father and I standing in the alley waving good bye to you and Julie as you left on your first solo trip (to 4th of July at the pasture)

    Compression but joy!

    With all my love,

    1. Paul Avatar

      And I recall only a few specific trips, but I think they all blur into one: getting picked up at the bus station, stopping at the grocery store in Mazeppa to pick up the case of skin-on hot dogs, endless hours of mowing…But specific details only come in two cases: hitting the homer in one softball game, and working on the Pinto.

  2. Jenni Avatar

    I bet you do remember taking Patrick home. We were in Bismarck, in the Ronald McDonald house. He was finally healthy enough to take home (after, what, 9 days in the NICU?). We gathered him up and hit the house before leaving for home. They took a picture of the three of us sitting infront of the fireplace (I was wearing overall shorts. Ugh, ’96). We got everything in the car to head to Garrison. I sat in the back seat the whole way to make sure he didn’t jiggle loose or anything. He wore a mostly orange and yellow pastel onesie. A couple of friends had put some balloons outside of the house for when we got home.

    Somewhere I still have that picture from the Ronald McDonald House.

    1. Paul Avatar

      I remember the picture, but I don’t remember sitting for it. I remember the stay in the Ronald McDonald house. I don’t remember the trip home or getting home. I do remember putting Patrick on his back on the couch between us and having Felix on his back next to him.