Sunday, September 15, 2013

Having Good Company Makes This Father/Son Trip Easier

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

I can see it both ways now, much clearer than when I was in high school and at home with parents, when I didn’t know how much a new roof or health insurance cost but knew everything else.

My dad’s birthday is today. I always forget exactly how old he is – 70-something – because he’s always been however old he needs to be to be my dad.

Something else time has taught me: you will always be your parents’ son. A child goes forth and all he touched and saw and smelled and felt became part of him, and continued to become part of him, every day, just as Whitman said.

I see my dad in the mirror a lot these days, or feel my face do something I’ve seen his do, or think something and know without doubt what he would say about it, almost exactly. Ties that bind, and all like that.

A young dad told me the other day he was checking his elementary-aged son out of school early on a Friday soon so he could take him to Dallas to a football game, take him out to eat supper and then breakfast with some of the “football people” and then to the stadium. Stop for shakes on the way over or gas-station crackers. Whatever timing and the mood demands. 

You know, just guys hanging out, tumbleweeds on an adventure.

If you have to miss a half-day of school, that’s a good reason. Those are educational times you’ll never forget. I haven’t…

I remember my dad taking me fishing. I remember the snake we saw at this one Carolina pond. I remember helping him build a fence around our back yard, and the big gloves he let me wear. I remember him leading us kids in singing, there on the front pews, before nighttime revival services.

I remember him driving me to a Carolina-Wake Forest football game in Columbia and I remember me driving him to a Cowboys-Seahawks game in Dallas. I remember him yanking a Band-aid off when I wasn’t looking: “Sorry,” he said. “Best way to do it.”

I remember him driving us to Orangeburg to get granddaddy years ago and I remember me driving us to the family reunion last summer.

As a son, I remember mostly good stuff these days. As a dad, I remember mostly my mistakes. But dang, it’s been fun. What a ride.

Once I became a dad, I discovered a whole new ballgame about what it means to be ignorant. When you’re in high school, you don’t know that you don’t know everything. When you become a dad, you know fairly fast that you don’t know anything.

When my college-grad son, the same guy I used to write about in the paper before he learned to read, left for Chicago three weeks ago, I told him I didn’t know what to say to him because it would come out wrong. Those types of speeches always do. Helped him get some things in order. Hugged him. Told him I loved him. Looking forward to riding the train up there, see what’s what while he waits tables and makes friends and learns things in acting class and learns things that growing up away from home teach you. I’m proud of him; I sure do miss him though.

Being a son ain’t for sissies, I suppose. Neither is daddyhood. But either way is more fun when you have the company, even if miles and years separate you, of each other.