It was just supposed to be one of those quick trips out on a Wednesday evening. Nothing special planned, as I knew it was going to consist of lite conversation over dinner. Since it had been the middle of the week, a nice way to break it up was to go out with my oldest child and have much-needed father and son time. It’s funny, I still refer to him as a “child” even though he is almost 19 years old. Maybe every parent does. Regardless of his age, he will always be my shining light, and probably will always be seen in my eyes as a kid somehow.
He was ready to go as soon as I pulled up in front of the house. Sometimes, it is a real struggle just to get him anywhere on time. On this night, it was not an issue at all. It is weird for me to stop by the house and only have him to take with me. Usually, his brother Kaden is always a part of the process. But not on this Wednesday. This was just a dad taking his son out for no real reason, other than for my own self-indulgence because I missed him. Though I can see him anytime I want, when you are eighteen, hanging out with “dad” tends to lose its once special luster, so I try to be respectful to his space.
Like any typical teen, I never know what mood to expect from him when he enters the car and settles into the front seat. I’ve seen every range of emotions sitting next to me with him. There have been some really sad conversations, some goofy talk, some serious discussions and just about everything in between over the years in that passenger seat. My role as always is to bring the conversation to an appropriate place and make certain it is one that complements his mood. Usually, it doesn’t take too long for me to deduce which version of Aryn is sitting beside me.
He made his way toward the car and with purpose, opened the door and climbed right on in. It was almost as if, perhaps…he had been looking forward to seeing me. Could it be? As soon as he sat down, a conversation was struck. It was almost as though he had a ton of bottled up energy and things on his mind he had been waiting to release. I guess on this night, I hit the parental jackpot! I had picked a time whereby my son not only wanted to be there, but he had a lot of things to share with me too. “ How cool was this”, I thought. How great to be a dad.
The plan was originally for us to go and share a pizza. For me, I can eat any pizza from any place on just about any day. It makes absolutely zero difference where it comes from, it all tastes good. For him, not the case. He has a favorite pizza place and very infrequently wants to deviate from it. Unfortunately for some reason, this place was packed on a Wednesday night and tables were not available without a wait. There was an option to eat it in the car, but I wanted us to sit a table and have some face time. We were quickly on to plan b: Mexican food.
The conversation over dinner somehow took us back to his childhood home in Peterborough NH. I am always torn when I head back there in my mind. It was the only home the four of us were ever together in as a family unit. In that respect, it holds an extremely special place in my heart. It too was the residence where we endured a certain hell-on-earth for several years medically with his kid brother. Cancer absolutely kicked our collective asses in that place. There is a real struggle between good versus evil in terms of memories there when I reflect back. I had been curious to hear his thoughts however, so I indulged.
We shared stories back and forth about the house, about our happy times, and about his childhood memories made there. Thankfully it was all really positive for him and had been really nice for me to hear his thoughts on growing up. He even ran through the list of friends he still has there in town, recounting the exact grade of school he had been in when he met each new buddy. He was smiling as he rattled off the names of those Peterborough “homies”.
I could tell his memories were much different than mine. He hadn’t allowed the negative to overpower the positive experiences as I had done. He even told me, “one day he would like to purchase the house and live there again”. I guess in this respect, his mom and I did our jobs. If he wanted to go back there so strongly, his childhood must have been special. Amidst the medical chaos of the time, we tried really hard to create childhood magic for him. I always had wondered…but now I knew. Together, Stacey and I had succeeded in doing so.
We flashed back for about forty-five minutes, comparing stories and memories. With each and every one of them, came a larger smile upon his face. One which truthfully, had been lost for a period of time. To see it back again, absolutely made my night. So simple, but so pleasurable to witness. He had gone back home and he was super happy doing so.
I can’t say Aryn is all grown up from a maturation perspective, but the little blond boy who used to hang with me for hours and watch cartoons, play with dinosaurs, and sing silly songs, can only be nothing more than a memory now. Sitting across from him, I finally knew it. The person on the other side of the table was thoughtful, articulate, and reflective. Aryn is becoming a young man. He has been growing up all along. I cannot stop it from happening, as I’ve kept my eyes shut to the existence of it.
The only thing left for me to do is to accept it. On this enchanted evening over a plate of cheese nachos, I had to face a certain reality. Like it or not, “Peanut” was gone.
Where does the time go?
Cherish the moments.