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  • Writer's pictureStuart Sheldon

Meet Me in Heaven at Half Past Seven

Einstein's Diamond Mind, acrylic, charcoal on paper, 11.5"x15.5", 2004, Stuart Sheldon

“What’s fate, Daddy?” my 5-year-old asked last week. Whoah.

I was still reeling from last month’s one-two punch: “Is God real?” followed by, “Where is heaven?” Apparently, I have a fellow seeker on my hands.

Not all his questions are this lofty. “What is the highest number you have ever counted to?” is a favorite the past few months.

But then, a fews days ago, he hit me with, “What’s doubt?”

YOU’RE FIVE! Go out and play in the dirt … and leave the human condition issues to the brooding grownups, I wanted to tell him.

J.D. Salinger nailed it. He wanted to stand at the rye field’s edge and catch the happy running children when they got too close to the cliff. With two supremely delicious kids, now 3 and 5, I relate at a cellular level. Yet, like rye in the golden summer sun, kids’ minds grow along with their bodies. My job is not so much to catch them but to help them climb safely down the cliff wall to the roaring sea below … where their ships await (and, hopefully, we’ll catch some waves together between imminent squalls).

My naked kids splashed and squawked in the pool behind me, while I flipped a mild Italian sausage on the BBQ and pondered – was I fated to meet my wife when a friend told me to check out this cute woman on a website in 2004? They had dated once, but it did not work out. He thought things might be different with me. She was definitely cute in her pic, standing with her pixie hair next to her Mini Cooper beside a Pacific Coast Highway bluff. What I was certainly NOT considering at that moment was, FATE HAS SPOKEN AND SHE IS THE ONE. Though, admittedly, she did intrigue me more than anyone before … enough to move onto her houseboat and travel the world and marry her and miscarry 3 babies in one year and have two perfect kids and live happily ever after (so far).

I don’t believe in the pre-ordained notion of fate. But I do not believe in coincidence either. Are the two notions irreconcilable?

Fate, I told Kai as he dried off, is something that is meant to be.

Is fate the absence of coincidence?

Doubt, I later told my pint-sized inquisitor, is when you are not sure about something such as fate.

When it came to the God question, I wanted to say, “I have no friggin idea! No one does, and if they say otherwise then they are offering an opinion.” But I figured I’d save the irreverence until he was six. And, of course, that comment would be followed by, “What’s an opinion, Daddy?” I managed to scrape through with “God is something personal for everybody. It’s what you believe is larger than yourself. Like nature.”

Heaven was a total flail … something about “it’s everywhere.”

“But is it in the sky?” my lovely boy asked with absolute earnestness.

“Some people think so. Want to make a Lego world?”

A boy and his dad in heaven

One of these days, when their reality is not 99% literal, I will explain to both my kids that heaven is indeed real. That every time they look at me with those innocent eyes and ask me a “What is…” question, I am in heaven. That heaven’s sanctum sanctorum exists in the quiet refuge of their bunk beds, where I watch them sleep each night, their lithe chests rising and falling with peaceful divinity. That any place where we are together, sharing, touching, laughing, sobbing, observing, discovering … or simply sitting silently … is every bit of everything that is heaven.

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