Play One particular memory from my childhood has been present lately. “Dad. Play with me.” “No. Men don’t play. Play with your mother.” “Why would I lower myself to the floor and pretend the figures talk”, He said ridiculing me.

Men don’t play. Words that resonated with me growing up. I grew up fast, therefore I stopped playing fast.

I forgot how to play, and what that meant. It sounded like a foreign word to me. I never spoke the words, “I want to play.”

Other kids would say, “You wanna play?” “Play? Go play with other kids. I don’t play.” Why do they play? What’s the point? So childish, I thought, even though I was still a child.

Then, my son was born, and I watched him play. My father would sit in his recliner and ignore him, as if his job was finished, and it was my turn.

I watched as figurines were brought to life with his imagination and he built stories. He pretended and played, unconditionally happy. Without a care of who watched, the voices and characters came out. Every day, without worry, and delay, furniture became landscape and the floor, lava. Plastic became an airplane and his mouth a sound effects box. Why? What purpose?

“Dad?”, He said, “Play with me.” “Men don’t play, son”. Instead, I just watched him and felt embarrassed. I’d sit on that old recliner where my late father used to sit. Slowly, playtime receded into the internet and others far away took on the role of play companions.

Now. I see grey hair in the mirror. He’s as tall as me and has procreated, all in the blink of an eye. One day, this will repeat. I cannot undo it. The cycle will continue. I think back, and my heart beats with both anger and sadness.

Son, I dream of you. You are four years old, pitter-patter in pajamas with that Saturday morning laughter, and I run after you. We make shooting sounds and laugh about everything. I wish this dream were true with all my tears. I’m a robber and he’s a cop, and within a brief moment, the world around us stops existing. Nobody watches. The only thing that matters at that time is our pretend world and the moment when he learns to trust me. He makes eye contact and looks inside of me, smiles, and says nothing, but I know that it’s unconditional love. Its all a dream.

My dad never played with me and I taught it to my son. I haven’t seen my either my son or grandson in years. Today, as I lay in my hospital bed, I wish with all my heart I could take it all back. I wish my son would come and play with me, but he is a man, and men don’t play.

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