Today is my birthday and very well could’ve been Nate’s. He was born on August 30, but came into this world in a rush, two full weeks early. Had he observed the schedule, Nate and I would have been like John and Sean Lennon, the most famous of all father-son birthday sharers! The card from Nate and Joey came in true Nate form. The envelope made out to “Jeff Katz,” pretty formal. But inside, Nate was very dear, writing “I love you dad” and “Love, Nate” instead of his usual Nate Katz signature.
It’s easy to infantilize Nate and he often earns it. His 21st birthday this year, a serious age marker for most, came and went with little change in his life. I realized that I was only two years older than Nate when I met Karen. It’s impossible to think of him in those fully adult terms, but when a woman at the post office referred to him as “the little guy” it made me pause. Here’s this man-cub, 21 years old with two younger brothers, and he’s seen by many as a baby.
Like I said, he deserves it at times, especially when he’s making noises or having a tantrum. His normal, day-to-day behavior, is sweetly childlike and, at night, he comes into our room, with a cheery “Hi guys!” and usually gets into bed for a brief moment, throwing his arms around one, if not both, of us.
And then there are his very astute times, times where he demonstrates skills and knowledge beyond his years. He’s a mixed bag, as much today as in his youth. I mentioned once that he saw himself as “an adult with the mind of a kid,” but I think he sees himself as mostly kid (or mostly cartoon). When I joked with him that now, at 21, he and I could go to a bar together and have beer, he reacted very angrily. “No, I can’t do that. I do not drink beer!”
So, he’s 21 and feels 12. I’m 49 and, after back surgery, feel fragile and older. It never quite comes together, does it?