You’ve always been a lot closer to your mother than to me. It is a perfectly reasonable bias, admittedly; she is much more better-looking than I am, for one. And she does treat you better than I do on most occasions.
I do envy your mother sometimes for the attention she receives from you. Perhaps it is because we spend so much time together, that I can’t help but use her as the superior parenting benchmark and wonder where I went wrong.
One evening when I was giving you a shower, you taught me where I went wrong.
I was just recovering from a gruelling bike training session the night before, and my body was still aching from the exercise. So when it came time to soap you, I let out a groan as I knelt down to your height and started lathering you up.
“Daddy, why you pain?”, you asked as I grimaced at the feeling of my aching thighs.
“Sigh. My body is not as nubile as it used to be. So after I exercise, I will feel pain when I kneel down. Daddy’s getting old already,” I said with a smile.
You froze, your eyes fixed on my face with a look of concern (despite not knowing what the word “nubile” means), and you maintained that stare despite the water and shampoo trickling down your face.
I returned the stare, albeit in confusion to your reaction. “What?” I asked you.
You contemplated my query for a second, then said in a measured tone, “Daddy… don’t die.”
“Huh?! Why do you think I’m going to die?” I asked.
“Because you say you old already. I don’t want you to die,” you replied. The concerned look never left your face the entire time.
I laughed. “Don’t worry. Daddy’s gonna be around for a long time.”
That one moment we shared – just between you and me – was a profound one. That moment, I learned I was important to you too. And i was competing against no one; you only have the one dad.
And I’m gonna be around for a long time.