All grown up

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Looking over the calendar for April last week, it struck me: In six weeks, my youngest son will graduate from high school.

It hardly seems possible. Why, just a couple of months ago he was eating Fruit Loops in his high chair. He fell asleep there and we got that cute picture. That wasn't that long ago, was it?

Actually, it was. That little cotton-topped guy is all grown up now, a few inches taller than me and a whole lot slimmer. After graduation, he'll be following his older brother's footsteps and heading to U.S. Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego.

Ryan's mom and I divorced when he was little more than 3 years old and his brother was 8. For the vast majority of his life, he's lived two or three hours away from me, and although I've tried to make sure that I'm a constant, positive presence in his life, the truth is that it has been difficult. I worry that he doesn't realize how important he has always been to me.

More than his brother, I think, Ryan inherited much of my personality. Certainly, he looks more like me than Ronnie.

Ryan is mostly very calm and laid-back and he can be quiet around people he doesn't know well. But get him in his comfort zone, and he has a great sense of humor -- sometimes when you least expect it, which makes it even more entertaining.

Like me, Ryan is slow to get really angry. But once he reaches that point, his anger is not subtle (again, just like me). I actually appreciate that about him -- he's not afraid to express his feelings.

Since he's gotten older, our visits aren't as frequent. Between baseball, basketball, band and his longtime girlfriend, his schedule is pretty packed. In fact, he chose to spend Valentine's Day weekend at home to spend time with his girlfriend rather than visit me here in Carroll County. I didn't mind that at all; she is a sweetheart and I'm glad they got to enjoy some time together.

I did get the opportunity in March to watch Ryan play in the state basketball tournament in Ozark. Even though his team lost its first game in the tournament, I know that will be a memory he will keep for the rest of his life, and I'm thankful I got to share it with him.

I didn't have the greatest relationship with my own father, and it has been very important to me that I not repeat that with my sons. Despite the physical distance between us, my hope is that my sons never have reason to question that I love them unconditionally, and that I am more proud of them than words can say.

And so, when Ryan walks across the stage on May 15 and officially becomes a high school graduate, I will be there to cheer him on to a bright future. I might feel a little old, but I'll also feel very blessed.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for the Carroll County News. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com.