I find myself, quite unexpectedly, at the cusp of middle age. I am not old, yet, but there are things I could do in years past that I can do no longer. Some things are best left behind. I do not mourn, for instance, the ability to fight through the hangover wrought by the previous night's orange Mad Dog 20/20. Nor do I mourn the fool that drank it.
Some things, however, I do miss. Simple things. Running far and fast without consequence. Baseline fade-away jumpers. Salsa without heartburn.
I miss the ability to read something once and own it forever. I miss the openness to befriending a poor middle-aged black man who never had anything but a sweet stroke from 28 feet and a stern mother. I miss not knowing what I would be when I grew up.
I do not know if I should regret the passing of certain things or rejoice in what has replaced them. I admit I am nostalgic for my childhood, and yet I revel in my children. I have pangs of yearning for the nights with Alejandro Escovedo, Del Castillo, and the woman who would become my wife. And yet, I wear like a second skin the comfort of my quiet nights at home with my guitar, improvised lullabies, and the woman who has become the very spine that supports me and the legs that carry me forward.
A stranger approached me at my grandmother's funeral recently and mentioned that she knew who I was because I stood throughout the service with my arms in a posture unique to my father. As my grandfather sits in an ICU bed tonight, the world inches closer to the day when my father is no longer his father's son, but is instead my children's grandfather; when I am no longer the young man making his way, but am instead the man making way for his children; when my children no longer see my greatness, but see instead my mediocrity.
And that is my greatest regret. I had opportunities for greatness thrust at me at every turn. I was too meek, too stupid, or simply too average to grasp them. But it is not the failure to achieve greatness that I regret. It is the failure to recognize that the opportunities to do so were slipping away. I did not choose mediocrity. I simply failed to choose anything else.
So here I am. I have grown up. I stand like my father. I may yet change, but my goals these days focus on refinement rather than metamorphosis. The chrysalis has passed without my acknowledgment. I am what I was going to become, and the thought leaves me on edge.