My Son and Papa Dreadnoughtus

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You may recall that last year they announced the discovery of a dinosaur species which they called Dreadnoughtus, thought to be the single largest land animal to ever live. Cool, right? Suck it, Argentinosaurus!

Anyway, my 5-year-old son has a project this week in his preschool class on dinosaurs, his favorite subject. He had to choose one to report on, and build a poster based on what he learned. Well he already knows gobs of facts about all manner of dinosaur species, so in order to up the ante and challenge him a bit, we chose, you guessed it, Dreadnoughtus.

He was really enthusiastic about it, he knew he’d be the only kid to choose it, and he threw himself into learning new facts about it, and especially drawing his masterful picture.

I snapped a picture of my wonderful boy and his project, and shared it to the inter-social-webs. And guess who responded to the tweet? None other than paleontologist Ken Lacovara, the paleontologist who discovered Dreadnoughtus! (He describes himself in his Twitter bio as “Papa to Dreadnoughtus.”) He’s the guy laying next to the fossil in the picture on my son’s poster above. He tweeted:

Nice! Please tell him I said he did a great job!

unnamedAnd on my contention that my boy would “kick those other kids’ [projects] butts,” Lacovara said:

Totally

I echo what my wife Jess said about this: It’s this kind of thing that’s so wonderful about the social Internet. That my preschool-age son could excitedly work on a project about a dinosaur, and almost instantly be encouraged and congratulated by the very person who discovered it.

Anyway, thank you, Dr. Lacovara!

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To Persist, to Ponder

Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi died on March 9 of lung cancer. He was, as I am, 37 years old. He had, as I do, a young daughter. (I also of course have a son.) Before he died, Kalanithi wrote about his mortality, the change in his experience of time, and what held meaning for him in his last days.

Time for me is double-edged: Every day brings me further from the low of my last cancer relapse, but every day also brings me closer to the next cancer recurrence — and eventually, death. Perhaps later than I think, but certainly sooner than I desire. There are, I imagine, two responses to that realization. The most obvious might be an impulse to frantic activity: to “live life to its fullest,” to travel, to dine, to achieve a host of neglected ambitions. Part of the cruelty of cancer, though, is not only that it limits your time, it also limits your energy, vastly reducing the amount you can squeeze into a day. It is a tired hare who now races. But even if I had the energy, I prefer a more tortoiselike approach. I plod, I ponder, some days I simply persist.

Even to those of us whose end is not impending (as far as we know) this is a satisfactory state. To persist and ponder.

Kalanithi writes of his goals and achievements now belonging exclusively to the past, and I’m glad that at the same age as he, I need to not succumb to that feeling, though at times I can feel like being 37 means that all meaningful opportunities are now lost. It is a fallacy, but one whose fiction I must constantly remind myself of. Kalanithi’s piece helps.

Here’s part of why there is meaning in the middle ground, of reaching a point where, as he puts it, there is less “ascending” and more of a plateau. It’s a good plateau. (Forgive me, this is his final paragraph, so, I suppose “spoiler alert”?)

When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

20150221_093538When my 2 1/2-year-old daughter greets me when I pick her up from daycare, she greets me with her whole self, throwing so much joy and love at me I can hardly take it all in. Things quickly move on to her inquiring frantically about the immediate availability of fruit snacks, but in those tiny welcoming seconds, I feel a lifetime of meaning.