Mondays are daddy nights. Mommy works one night a week, which gives me a chance to have the kids to myself and do fun stuff with them till bedtime. Last night I smacked off the light and hoisted myself up the ladder into Joel’s bunk bed to tuck him in. I’m not going to over spiritualize the conversation we had; let me just say that it just about killed me: So funny, so cute, so painful. I’ll also say he’s seven, and very bright. I’ll replay the conversation as best I remember.

“What should I be when I grow up, dad?”
“I dunno, Joel. Anything you want. Anything GOD wants.”
“I want to be a pastor and a free runner. I want to be just like you.”
I smile, inside and out.
“Did you have to pay to be a pastor, dad?”
I laugh. “Well, I had to pay to go to school to learn how to be a pastor.”
“Yeah, buddy. College. University.” Noah, his older brother, has been talking about college this year (he just turned twelve). Joel seems to remember that. I can almost hear the gears in his brain churning, clicking. He pulls himself closer to me, emotion overwhelming him.
“I’m going to miss Noah when he moves away.”
His mind keeps clicking. “And when Glory moves away.” He realizes he’ll be alone at home one day, being the youngest.
“Joel, you might get married before they do. You might be the first to move away.”
He’s quiet again. Mind flying. And clicking. He buries his face in my neck.
“Dad, the day before I leave, can we spend the WHOLE DAY together?”
“Yeah, buddy. Lord willing.” I hold him. He sobs.
“Maybe I could live with you, daddy.”
“For a long, long time, Joel. You bet.”
“Maybe I could buy a house next door to you.”
I chuckle. “That would be awesome. And there are lots of houses up for sale on our street.”
He’s quiet again. “What if they aren’t for sale then?”
“Oh, buddy, this is all so far away. Let’s just enjoy what we have now.”
He’s quiet again. But he’s got more questions.
“If I move away, then what will I keep my lizard in?”
“Oh, that aquarium is yours, buddy. You’ll take it along.”
“What about your lizards?”
“I’ll get another aquarium. It’s okay.”
He lets out a huge, solemn sigh, leaning over the bed to scan his room. “I guess I’ll take all this stuff along with me.”
I crush him in a hug. He cries again. Try as I might, he’s on this mental train, and I must respect it.
I lie with him, holding him and stroking his hair. He relaxes. Time for sleep.
“I love you, dad.”
“Love you too, buddy.”