Boys to Men
My youngest son married his high-school sweetheart on Sunday. It was, of course, a happy occasion, but it left me feeling a little melancholy.
My life hasnít exactly read like a happily-ever-after movie script. Iíve been divorced three times. Iíve buried both my parents. Iíve been laid off. Iíve lived on the outskirts of poverty at times as a single dad paying a big chunk of my income in child support.
But the one thing that kept me working and pushing in the right direction was my sons. Looking out for them has always been incredibly important to me ó in large part because I didnít feel as if I had that kind of relationship with my own dad.
As I drove home from Bella Vista after the wedding reception Sunday, my older son Ronnie and his wife Christi traveled in the other direction with my two grandsons, south toward North Little Rock. Ryan and his bride, Harlie, stayed behind to continue celebrating their wedding.
As I drove, I thought about the fact that neither of my sons really needs me now. Sure, theyíll still call and visit and hopefully Iíll be around for a long time to spend time with them. But the real fact of the matter is, if I died this afternoon, they would survive on their own without any trouble.
I suppose thatís what any parent should hope for: to raise their children to be independent and self-reliant. But itís a bit of a shock to realize one day that your primary reason for existence ó to take care of those boys ó suddenly (or not so suddenly) isnít quite so paramount.
ďTake care of those boys.Ē It was the last thing my mother ever said to me. I promise I did my best.
I remember the day Ronnie was stung by a bee for the first time. The day Ryan called me, all excited, to tell me about his first junior high basketball practice. The day Ronnie graduated from kindergarten and the day four years later when Ryan did the same. I even remember the poem Ryan recited: ďA is for apple ÖĒ
I blinked, and those little boys are gone. In their place are a pair of grown men, standing so tall that I swear the next time we take a group picture, Iím standing on a stepladder.
I donít begrudge my sons their adulthood. Iím prouder of them than words can express. But, man, I sure miss those little boys.
In one sense, I suppose I could just take a deep breath and relax now. For better or worse, my work as a parent is virtually complete. But somehow Iím not finding much comfort in that. It happened way too fast.