It was the night before Thanksgiving 2015, and I was taking my then seven-year-old son ice skating for the first time at a small outdoor rink on the edge of Colonial Williamsburg. We had been in Virginia for about a week as part of a year-long sabbatical road trip I was taking with him and my wife, and this was our last night visiting the restored 18th-century city.
I held Judah’s hand as we tottered around the ice. I hadn’t been on skates for some 30 years, and I was worried not only about falling but also about the consequences of focusing 175 pounds on the narrow steel blades of my skates. Since my early 40s, I’ve suffered from a pain in the ball of my foot caused by a necrotic sesamoid bone that requires me to wear the sort of orthotics that don’t fit into ice skates. Even if I didn’t slam down on the ice and break a leg or hip, I thought, I’d pay for this extravagance in the morning. But that’s what it meant to be a dad, at 51, of a young boy. The result of that night on the ice, however, was not sore feet, but a different sort of ache, a feeling of loss, a yearning for something I thought I had happily left behind a decade ago on the same trip that killed my sesamoid bone—the joys of Christmas.