Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe

Photo by Seniju
Vas Deferens, Bears & Jacob:
Why I Listen To My Children Breathe by Jesse Goolsby

I’m thirty-four-years-old and a close friend comes over to the house. He’s prone to exaggeration. After a few Yuenglings, he skips the question most have asked (why a vasectomy?) and asks me why Sarah and I decided to have children in the first place. Still debating starting a family himself, he wants an answer outside the majority of predictable replies: joy of teaching and nurturing and learning, ready to give and receive love, societal/familial/personal expectations. Nothing comes to me. The list he mentions pretty much covers the bases. I tell him so, and he seems disappointed.

“Not enough reasons?” I ask.

“So much can go wrong,” he says. “Yes, a lot can go right, but it’s easier for it to go wrong. You got diseases, drunk drivers, molesters, tornadoes, Republicans, drowning, drugs. And what if they just turn into jerks?”

What he wants to ask, but doesn’t, is “Is it worth it?”

Late that night I show my buddy out and circle back to the refrigerator. On the freezer door, Ella’s crayon drawing of our family shows me as a stick figure tall in the center, with blue hair, blue eyes, blue arms, blue crotch, blue legs, and a green “Daddy” haloing above. It’s a moment ripe for epiphany. If it were a movie scene, this is when the soft piano would bleed in as I wipe the gathering tears from my eyes. But there’s nothing new this night, no realization or enlightenment, perhaps just some pride at how tall I’m rendered and that I’m smiling, and that’s enough. I just want someone to remember me.

I hear the hum of the heater and note the microwave clock’s 1:24, so I walk to each of my kids’ rooms and bedside pause for a few seconds. I look at them and listen. I make sure they’re all wrapped up tight and safe and breathing.

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Jesse Goolsby is the author of the novel I’d Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). His work has appeared in Narrative, Epoch, The Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Redivider, and the Best American series. He is the nonfiction editor at The Southeast Review.