By Joe Brooks

When I get to be of ripe old age, with what memory I have left, I will remember the Christmas holidays of 1997 with great fondness. 

I will remember the burning embers in the fireplace and the soft hum of the air conditioner in our south Mississippi home. Only people from south Mississippi can understand that scene. 

I will remember Kyle’s dancing eyes as he imagined the places he would travel on his new bike that mysteriously appeared Christmas morning in front of the tree. 

I will remember Graham’s first "Dadadadadadadadadadadada," one of the best presents I received from my then nine-month-old son. 

I will remember the look on Lisa’s face when she unwrapped the painting she admired in the gallery a couple of months before Christmas. 

And I will remember a set of handprints. 

One afternoon, about a week before Christmas, we took a leisurely drive down Beach Boulevard on Highway 90. I noticed a handprint on my windshield. Down below it and off to the right, another smudge clearly revealed someone small had been climbing on my windshield. I could tell the handprints were easily identifiable as the handprints of the four- year-old sitting in the back seat. 

"Kyle, do you know who’s been climbing on the car?" I questioned. Running his fingers through his wispy blonde hair, he responded with the depth of memory of a witness in front of a House Judiciary Committee. He had no recollection of those events. 

Kyle knows climbing alone on the car is not an activity sanctioned by his parents. Let me count the ways. It’s dangerous. He could fall. He shouldn’t climb that high. I told him, if he were to continue his denials, we could request the help of the friendly investigators down at the Biloxi Police Department. 

When he finally owned up to the fingerprints, I was about to shift into D for Daddy and accelerate into my YOUKNOWHOWDANGEROUS THATIS?" speech; I was, all at once captivated by the presence of the handprints. The smudges on the glass became exhibit A in the quickly changing life in which we live. My boys are changing right before my eyes. Rapidly. Forever. 

Last year, Kyle could not have even climbed on the hood of the car to make the handprints. 

Next year, he’ll have many opportunities to make new handprints in other inappropriate places. We’re sure to find the handprints of Graham, his baby brother, in other inappropriate places, too. 

This year; however, I am glad to have that little handprint all over my windshield. 

And all over my heart. 

As my family progressively grows bigger and older with each passing day, I agree with James, the brother of Jesus, "Life is a vapor that appears for a short time and vanishes away." 

There are hundreds of experiences Lisa, Kyle, Graham, and I have made together that will mean little to me until the day that both boys are out of the house. In those days yet to come, we will probably remember the small events of life, such as the moments we discovered handprints on the windshield. These days will probably outstrip memories of the Big Moments of Life such as vacations, trips, and the seemingly "important events". 

At this moment, I am sitting in my chair at the computer looking into the kitchen. Graham just crawled into the kitchen, army style, pulled himself up with the help of his high chair, and tried to put the strap into his mouth. Just think. In a few more months, he’ll be walking into the kitchen, out of this oral stage, and into a more ORAL stage of life. 

Traveling down Beach Boulevard, before I shifted into Daddy to give Kyle "The Speech," I took a pause. It was a moment of remembering the passage of time, the ending and beginning of things, the eternal in the temporal. Just like David, who poured the water out on the rock when he realized how important the sacrifice had been made to let him have just a drink of water, so I let the words of the speech drain away. I told Lisa "You know, in a few years, we won’t ever have to worry about having handprints on our windshield again." And I will ache in my heart to see these days again.

A long time ago, another Father saw his son... his only begotten son... climb into a dangerous place. The place was called Calvary. The son was named Jesus. He stretched out hands and laid down his life for you and me. 

And He left a handprint that will never pass away.

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