On a morning not so long ago Baby Bootsie reaches high above her head to grasp my forefingers in her own tight little fists and tries her hardest to put one foot in front of the other. Nearly eleven months old now, she is thinking seriously about walking. She has watched her brother and sister do it, and she can see that it opens countless new possibilities, all of which appear to be great fun.
However, her legs won't quite cooperate. The balance is just not there, and gravity apparently tugs too hard on her diaper. Over and over, she lands on her bottom before pulling herself up to try once more. After all, Sooby and Pooh make walking look so easy.
Later that same day, my brother and I each take an arm and walk our dad the short circle around 2SW. This is code for the southwest wing of the second floor of the hospital where we were both born over half a century ago. Sporting blue PJs, Dad takes small, slow steps and pushes his IV pole along in front of him. He is dying of lung cancer. The cigarettes he and all the dads smoked with such carefree abandon in the '60s have come back to exact their vengeance on the unlucky ones. He has not smoked for 36 years, but he didn't quit soon enough.
I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1, which I first learned not in Sunday School but in a song recorded by a rock band. "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven." The next verse mentions "a time to be born" and "a time to die." Presently, our family is experiencing both of those seasons as, simultaneously, we rejoice in each new birth and witness the decline of our parents.
Before long, Baby Bootsie and her siblings will welcome a new cousin, and I will be Googie for the fourth time. Although that birth will bring unmitigated joy, I am saddened to realize that Dad will not be able to meet his sixth great-grandchild, at least on this earth. But as the Byrds sang so memorably in 1965, "Turn, turn, turn." The world turns; the seasons come and go. This life is not forever. New life replaces the old in a cycle set into motion ages ago by someone much wiser than I.
"Turn, turn, turn," sang the Byrds. Winter succumbs to spring. In the midst of all the turning, a sick old man struggles with his final steps even as a baby girl strives to take her first. I am here between them, holding on as tight as I can for as long as I am able.