Eating supper Friday on the eve of his 21st birthday, Legalhood, I asked my son Casey, "So, I know you don't know for sure what you're doing five minutes from now, but I'll ask anyway: Got any big plans for tomorrow?"
"Oh," he said, chewing with his month full, "I guess gamble."
Sigh...He's a beautiful human being.
This ran in The Times and The News-Star Sunday.
NEW KID IN TOWN
This weather's been so cold, it really lets you know where your underwear stops.
Do you hear what I'm saying? You smell what I'm stepping in?
Too cold. Might as well live in Minnesota, or some other foreign place.
I had long johns. They didn't help. Had to go buy longer johns.
That said, I put on the biggest coat I own this week and realized something very bittersweet: I miss zipping up my son's jacket.
I can't do that anymore. I could, but he wouldn't appreciate it. My little boy, a guy I taught to tie his shoes, turned 21 this week.
Remember how your children used to walk up to you with their big-boy coats on, their chests stuck out, waiting on you to zip them up?
My guy did that. Looked like a tiny Michelin Man, all hooded and insulated. I'd get on a knee and zip. Sometimes it took only 10 minutes or so.
This guy was born on a rainy Monday, just after noon, a C-section guy. I saw the picture of him at 10 that morning, live, pre-birth. He was sitting up, looking comfortable, chewing on what looked like a cord or a skinny ear of corn. Who knows what was going on in there. He wouldn't turn over, so the doctor just went in and got him.
Have you seen pictures of divers, pictures frozen at the moment that nothing but the diver's head is in the water? That was my first view of Casey Jay Allen. The doctor had him by the ankles, extending him toward her chest, and his head was still inside.
Then his head popped out, she whopped him a couple of times, and we were open for business.
Very strange. A whole brand new person. Didn't know anybody. None of us knew him. But he was here to stay. And so began the escapades and whatnot.
Through the years he's been a joy, a heart ache, a head-scratcher and a smile-maker. "He just did what?"
He's been a Mariner, an Oriole, a Cardinal, a RockHound, a thespian, a fisherman, a physics student, a speech giver, a free-throw shooter, a Ninja turtle, a jacket zipper (eventually), and, once at Halloween, Richard Nixon.
He's been to ballgames, to amusement parks, to funerals, to weddings and to graduations. He's been to the beach, to the mountains, to Sunday school, to grandma's house, to the doctor, to putt-putt, and to the principal's office. His first trip to a hotel, we should have paid rent for the elevator; all we did was ride it, up and down, up and down.
He's been a friend to some wonderful boys and girls, to a couple of dogs, and to Jingle Bell, a cat who was supposed to be a dog and didn't know he wasn't. Good, good guys.
Mumps? Yes. Strep? Yes. Tetnaus shot? Hurt him. Department of Motor Vehicles? Hurt me.
Time does fly. When he was little enough to sneak Popsicles from the icebox and think he was getting away with it, I wondered what he'd look like when he got to be a legal adult.
Now I know.
But to me, part of him will always look like the little boy who couldn't zip a jacket. That's another reason parenting's not for sissies: Our job is to teach our kids to do things without our help, then it's disturbing in a unique sort of way when they actually have the nerve to do it.
Bittersweet. But I'm grateful he's grown up. I'm grateful he's helped me, at least a little bit, do the same thing.