The boy. My boy, is 13 now. He will be 14 in about another 60 or so days. My boy.
Every age of a child is, in my opinion, the best age. When he was a baby and I’d come home late in the evening from working all day and his mother, my precious wife, would look at me and ask, “Can you please get him down? He won’t go to sleep for anything.” I’d sit down with him and set him in the crook of my arm. She would get up and go to the back of the house. Gone all of 5 minutes. Come back and he would be sound asleep. Lord how that made her so mad. I loved it. My boy, knew he was safe with daddy and sleep was as close and safe as the crook of my arm in that chair of mine.
When he was going for his first day of school. I with the wife made the trek down the hall to his class and told him how proud we were and what a big boy he was. It was as tough a fight as any I’ve ever had in my life to get to the end of the hall and turn the corner before I cried like a man who had just lost his best friend. He was growing up and I didn’t like it, Not one bit.
There have been a few years where I wondered if he would ever be a man of any repute. That age where thinking is not much beyond the end of their nose and apathy reigns. This was tough but he was still my boy, and I couldn’t shake how much I loved him.
So here we are at this age. We are changing. He and I. He is growing a personality. One I actually like. His sense of comedic timing is getting more finely honed. This pleases the father who is a frustrated stand up comic at heart. Lord knows we will laugh at anything and at the most inappropriate moments. I can’t think of death or dying without thinking of my father’s funeral preparations. As we walked through the display of caskets and discussed options and what Pop would really have wanted, we happened upon a case with a small galvanized pale and a small spade for planting bulbs and the like. As my brother walked up and asked what I was looking at, I replied, “The starter kit I suppose.” That was the end of it. We laughed until we cried and cried because my dad would have laughed harder and louder than any of us at that one.
The boy has what I call “a little dirt on his lip”. The makings of manhood that some boys get and all boys cherish. He informed me the other day he wants to grow a beard like mine when he can. Okay then. You go buddy.
He’s been working with me a bit these past few months. I have a side job working POP at service stations. It’s nothing major but it keeps me supplied in mad money to fuel the hiking, camping, hammock obsession and anything else that hits my fancy. He went with me back in May an helped on a few out of town stops. This was an excuse to have a long ride where we could talk through some girl issues he was having and to remind him that some of his friends will do things he isn’t personally ready for and he has my permission and support to tell people to stick it if they pressure him on anything. Anything. From kissing to drugs to general matters of disobedience to religious thinking. Tell them to butt a stump and come talk to dad or mom. We won’t let him be pressured into anything. Not even the stuff we want him to do. It was a good time. I listened, he talked. He listened, I talked. It was a moment I have longed for since he was a baby in the crook of my arm. Seeing my boy face life’s milestones and ease casually and confidently past them knowing he is as safe and secure as in the crook of daddy’s arm.
I had surgery a bit ago and when the POP job came up again, I told him, “I will need your help, more so than last time. I’ll pay you for the time but you gotta help. This ain’t play time, we are working, like men”. So the weekend came and I took the first couple of the 32 stops we would make to show him his part, address the concerns he may face and issue the warnings of the particular dangers that come with doing this type of work. We go to places that aren’t that safe and get approached, often, by folks with false intentions and less than pure motives. I don’t fear for myself, and fear would be the wrong term to use when it comes to what my son may see or experience. He just needs to keep his head on a swivel and know where he is and everyone one else around him is. At all times.
We set to work. He was a tremendous help. Focused, efficient, pride in service and function. We got so much done in such a short time. I was in awe of him. He worked like a man. A real man. No complaint, no silliness, asked when he was unsure of anything and did an excellent job at everything I tasked him with. Another moment I have longed to see. A boy developing a fine work ethic. I got mine from working the milk route with my dad in the summers and evenings after school as a kid. Younger than my boy, but caught the same skill from my dad.
The relationship is changing. I’m still Daddy and daddy rules all but most of the time we’re more like a couple buddies out for a ride, goofing on each other, playing at life and talking freely about any subject. This is now my favorite age. He is handsome, and kind. Compassionate, thoughtful about the things worth thinking about, silly, funny, polite and happy.
I knew it the day he was born. I would never be the same again. I marveled then as I marvel now, that I can love another human being this much. This deeply. This hard. To the bone. To the marrow of my being. He is a fine young man. One of the three most precious gifts God has been gracious enough to give me. I don’t deserve a son this fine, or a daughter this beautiful, or a wife that loves me this much. I don’t deserve any of it, but I have it, and I am so very grateful. For all of them.
My boy. I’ll wish for him the same thing my father wished for me. That he will be a better man than me. His odds look far better than mine ever looked against my father. He really is something to be proud of. My boy.