“Dad,” Gideon said, “What will you be like when you are very old?” He was using scissors to cut the top off a gigantic bag of chips and he glanced up at me once or twice between cuts. His face was very stern and thoughtful, so I matched it.
“That’s a good question,” I said. I pulled a fresh cup of coffee out of the machine and held it in both hands as I leaned against the kitchen counter and watched him. “So, I don’t really plan to be a very old man. I thought maybe I would just be like this forever.”
He tilted his head and paused for a moment, squinting slightly as he considered this option. “No,” he finally decided with a shake of his head. “No, you will get very old someday.” he chuckled a bit, “And when you are very old you will not be like you are now. You will be different. And I wonder what that will be like.” He opened a cabinet and tried to reach for a bowl.
I helped lift one down and placed it on the counter in front of him. “Well, I guess I would have to know what it means to be very old then. Am I maybe already very old?”
He poured some chips into the bowl. “No. Now you are just old. But someday you will be very old.”
“Okay, then when?”
He shook the bowl and placed a few more chips on top with his hand. “Five years, I think.” He nodded to himself. “Yes. Five years. That’s a long time. In five years, you will be very old.”
“That’s it? Five years?”
He seemed confused and shrugged his shoulders as he rolled the top of the chip bag closed. “Yeah. That’s a good amount of time, right?”
“I guess. It’s all relative.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, but he didn’t seem to understand what he was agreeing to. “It’s all relative. Why? Do you need more time?”
I laughed, “Well sure. Can we negotiate this? Maybe I could have at least seven or eight more years?”
He popped one of the chips in his mouth and crunched on it loudly. “Nah, actually, five years is pretty long. I’m going to stay with five years. It’s five years, dad!”
“But what about you then? If I’m going to be a very old man in five years, does that mean you are going to be all grown up and ready to go live on your own? If I have to be very old could I at least have the house to myself?”
“No,” he wiped a greasy hand on his pants. “No, I’ll still be little probably.” He smiled, almost apologetically, and then winked dramatically. “So, what will you be like though?” We had returned to the question.
I sighed and took a long sip of my coffee. “Okay, in five years, when I’m a very old man. I will be the same as I am now, only a LOT more tired.”
He seemed happy with this answer.
“And maybe,” I continued. “maybe you could make me coffee since I’ll probably be too old to do it myself.”
He agreed with a quick nod of his head. “Deal,” he said, and then he launched himself down the stairs holding a bowl of chips on his head like a hat.