Awesome by omission

A colleague I’ve always respected retired this week, after forty fruitful years spent basking under fluorescent light tubes.

“Don’t worry, that will be us before you know it,” another colleague said to me, smiling.

“I sure hope so,” I replied, then immediately thought that was the most depressing thing I’d ever said. Yes, let’s just skip the next thirty years and cut right to the retirement cake, especially if it has a chocolate pudding layer.

I do envy certain aspects of retirement: freedom from worrying about professional calamities, getting to watch Judge Judy in real time and having plenty of time to spend with the people who really matter – your Facebook friends, who would like you to know that they finally rented “Inception” and didn’t see what all the fuss was about. Also, they could use your help wasting their lives in Farmville.

Retirement sounds like an awesome never-ending snow day, but the tendency to wish away all the time in-between seems unhealthy to me. Every time somebody retires, the people with long careers ahead of them make comments about being jealous. Perhaps this is just polite small talk, but if not, this sentiment is the saddest thing since the ending of Old Yeller, which I’ve never seen, but I have on good account that it was the saddest thing to have happened since 1957.

If young people are unhappy now and wanting to fast forward to their mid-to-late-sixties, it might just be Facebook’s fault. My wife Kara and I recently read an article that said Facebook is making us all miserable by making everyone else look so happy. Since people only post pictures that show themselves having a fabulous time, we assume that everyone else’s life is more fun than our own. People with toddlers are especially susceptible to this phenomenon, since they are far more likely to have recently suffered an exploding diaper incident, which makes everyone else’s pictures from Paris look that much more awesome by comparison.

That article got me thinking about how my life would appear to someone who only saw the pictures I posted online, which mostly feature our son Evan doing something adorable or our dog Memphis romping through the snow.

A few nights ago, exhausted from caring for a toddler with an ear infection and mild bronchitis, Kara and I pulled up the covers and turned out the lights, collapsing into the pillows.

“Finally, some rest,” I thought. Just as I was losing consciousness, I heard the sound of a bubbling cauldron. In a moment, I snapped awake, realizing that the cauldron was in our room, and it was our dog’s stomach. I opened my eyes just in time to see the silhouette of Memphis barfing in our doorway.

The regular reader(s) of this space might note that Memphis also barfed in last week’s column. If this is becoming something of a recurring theme, it is only because I am just now beginning to understand the full power of the ancient Sicilian curse: “May your dog have a sensitive stomach. And also, may your toddler throw the vast majority of his food on the floor.”

As I stumbled into the kitchen to retrieve some paper towels and carpet cleaner, I didn’t take a single picture, making our lives seem that much more awesome by omission.

To give the world a more accurate sense of our lives, after taking some pictures of Evan holding his mommy’s hand and laughing, I’d also need to take a picture of him screaming and arching his back so that I can’t fasten the car seat straps across his chest. It’s just that it’s really tough to get a good clear shot with all that struggling going on.

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