The Torch Has Been Passed

Well, it was bound to happen. This evening it was discovered that my 16-year old son has passed me in the height department. The tale of the tape brings him in about a half inch taller - it must have been the holiday smoked beef sticks that did the trick.

Suddenly, of the three men in our family (including my father) I am the shortest. This revelation changes everything. I'm now the bronze medallist in our family, as my son jumps up into the silver position. Most likely, he'll become a six-footer like his grandfather, perhaps even surpassing him, and leaving me behind in the lowly 5 foot 9  1/2 inch category. They'll be in their own exclusive six-footer club, looking down on me as if I'm some outsider, not quite measuring up to their lofty level. This evening I feel strangely ... insufficient.

So, to put my mind at ease I did some investigating to discover that the average height for a man in this country is 5 foot 9 inches, which means I'm actually a half inch taller than average. My father and son, as six-footers, would therefore be considered mutant giants in our society. That bit of information makes me feel better about things ... well, somewhat better.

Still, I notice how my son now looks down at me, smiling, as if he knows he has the upper hand in our relationship. There's a look in his eyes, the look of someone stronger and more self-assured, the look of someone who's finally achieved the high ground. Meanwhile, I feel like I'm standing in a hole, gazing at the universe around me as if everything is expanding beyond my reach. The kitchen cabinets suddenly seem very high.

I'll have to get used to my new position, just as my son will have to get used to his. In photos going forward I'll be the shorter one. When I use the car after him I'll need to pull the seat forward. At Christmastime, he'll be the one placing the star atop the tree. To paraphrase JFK, the torch has been passed to a new generation ... in terms of changing bulbs in ceiling light fixtures, that is.

Anyway, I never wanted to be a six-footer. My goal in life is simply to live to 100 years of age. By that time, the average height will have grown to seven feet, I will have shrunk to 5 foot 4 inches, the ice caps will have melted, Comet Halley will have returned, humans will have colonized Mars, and the Iraq War will be just about over.

If I remember correctly, the tallest human ever was something like 8 foot 3 inches tall. The smartest had an IQ of 250. And the silliest was a fellow from East Corinth, Vermont who ate tree bark every morning for breakfast.

Jack Sheedy

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