For as long as I've known him, he has made me cry. From the first moment when I laid eyes on him, seeing his tiny face looking back at me, I was a blubbering mess sitting in the hallway. I cried when he graduated from Pre-K, and again when he graduated from Elementary School. His final walk down the halls of Shelton Elementary was one of the hardest moments that I experienced. But not as hard as it was to see him cross over from Webelos to Boy Scouts as I wept openly in front of a crowded room as I conducted the ceremony. The boy had always filled my heart with pride and joy at seeing my son grow up.
But I didn't cry when he graduated High School back in May. I thought that I would. I was certain that I wouldn't be able to contain it. But I did. I'm not sure why, what had changed in all the years. Was it that in his growing up, that I too had grown beyond that? Was my pride any less? No, if anything I was more proud of him than I had ever been before.
I won't hide from the fact that the past 4 years have been tough on us, on our relationship. I never wanted to be that father that pushed his son so hard that he pushed his son away. But I saw more in him that he saw in himself and it bothered me that he wouldn't act on it. I'm not sure that it was any different for my father when I was that age, but I certainly didn't remember it that way. Regardless, I know he resented me for it. His girlfriend felt that I was being mean to him and unreasonable. Maybe I was, I just wanted him to be the best person he could be, and his High School years left me wondering. Maybe I just wanted too much.
But then a peculiar thing happened. The boy turned into a man before my eyes. Suddenly, he was worried about his future, about if he would make it through school, and what he would do if he made it. How would he survive? What job would he have? What if he failed? Our talks became less about me pushing him to do better and more to reassure him that he would be fine, telling him of my own failures and struggles as a young man, connecting in ways that we hadn't in years. And he surprised me yet again. Although he took it on about as late as you possibly can, he suddenly decided that he was indeed going to earn his Eagle. With literally 2 weeks to go before he left for college, he started his project in ernest. He finalized his project yesterday, only hours before he began the 3 hour trek to his new life.
We set out early this morning to Columbus State University, just 30 short miles from where I completed a similar trek some 30 years ago. His sister rode with him, she was taking this transition hard. His mother rode with me, struggling to maintain composure all the while. She commented that watching him drive there reminded her of when he was two, pushing a little blue car around our backyard chanting "outside, outside, outside". It was hard not to break.
But I persevered. We arrived, moved him in, got everything settled, and broke for dinner. Everyone at the table was dreading the end, eating slowly and savoring the last few moments before the boy became a man. The walk back to the dorm was delayed as much as possible with plenty of photo's to take the time. And then, it was over, hugs before the trip. As I shook his hand I pulled him in and whispered in his ear. "I'm VERY proud of you" I told him. To our credit neither of us broke, and he smiled and thanked me.
The ride home was long and painful. The girls cried, and reassured each other it was going to be ok. I thought about this blog and what I wanted to say to him. We were almost home when the song by Wiz Khalifa came on Pandora. It was the same song that they played at his graduation only a few short months ago. I think she sensed what I was about to do, and with 3 simple words my dam burst. "Don't change it", Laura said. And with that I could no longer hold back the tears. With the words, "It's been a long day without you my friend, and I'll tell you all about it when I see you again" I began to cry. I cried for all the joy and pride that the boy has brought me, and I cried for the man he is becoming. I still cry now as I type this knowing that a scared, but eager and excited young man is starting his next great adventure. And I cry because I'm so very proud of him, but I'm scared, but eager and excited for him as well. Daddy doesn't make the decisions now, its time for the man to take charge.
And like the song from Semisonic says, "Every New Beginning comes from some other Beginnings End." Cheers Charlie! Know that I'm very proud of you and know that I'll always be here for you, even though the decisions are now yours to make.
Now if you'll pardon me, I'm not done crying.