My son came into this world fifteen months after the birth of our first child ( see Wedding Bells are Clanking). Unlike the first pregnancy, this time we knew the gender of our child; to say I was excited to have a son is like saying that KFC Extra Crispy is just okay. I think every father since fatherhood began has wanted a son, some for reasons of practicality (another hand to help work the farm), some for conceit (there are a lot of juniors out there). I wanted a son for the same reasons: my “farm” is in constant need of repair, and I believe there’s a desire in every man to have a boy to carry on the family name. I also wanted a son so I could play with him (something I don’t remember my father doing much with me as a child), so I could teach him the ways of the world and so he could learn the invaluable lessons to be gleaned from my swollen treasure chest of life mistakes.
Unfortunately, when he was born I was still making them. I still had not, by this time, made the complete and necessary transformation from carefree party bachelor to that of responsible married man. There were hard money issues at the time (we didn’t have any) and I felt crushed under the weight of stress and of my inadequacies as a husband, father and provider. I thank God for my wife, who kept things together and still loved in spite of me. I try to remember all the times I spent doting on my infant son and insist to myself that they must be countless, yet my memory is confined almost exclusively to my failures then as a family man. If this is the punishment for my selfishness during that time, I can think of few worse. Awful enough for a man to be called away by force of duty and then return to see his children have grown in his absence, but I was at least there and still feel I missed it. I am unsure which is worse.
As a little boy, though, my son and I spent a great deal of time together. If I went to the store, he would happily tag along. We would often play tackle football on the living room floor, me on my knees, he trying to score by getting past me (I never gave an inch). Later, he took to the game of basketball, which is near and dear to my heart. We played one-on-one for years on the court in our back yard; I never let him win. Each time I won, I would ask him the same question:
“How old do you think you’ll be when you finally win?” He would, of course, answer whatever age he was at the time, but as the years went by and it became obvious he was going to start winning, I stopped playing. He played organized basketball for over thirteen years, and I only missed a single game (so I could install a fountain for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It wasn’t worth it). In his last high school game, he scored ten points in the last two minutes of a playoff game as he desperately (and unsuccessfully) tried to keep his team alive. Afterwards he was struck by the finality of it and cried like a baby, though he’d grown out of crying years before; I honestly think he cared more than I did, if that were possible.
Throughout his life, I’ve called him by the same name: Boy. Yes, he has a real name and I use it often enough, but I’m sure if you ask him what I call him most, he’d say the same thing: Boy. I use the name because for me, it is solely his; he’s my only son, the only one I’ll ever have (as far as you know). He, on the other hand, has called me by several names over his lifetime: as a small child, it was Papa. Since he’s grown older, it has morphed into Pops, with an occasional Lumbering Oaf, Tub of Goo or Old Bag of Dirt thrown in for seasoning. I love each of them and answer to them all.
When he was about sixteen, I showed him a year book photo of me at the same age; he was shocked and apparently horrified by the image of his near twin. He looked at the picture, then up and down at me and said “You mean I have this to look forward to?” He’s been working out diligently ever since. And so it is: though I’ve known for so long that my son is a strong part of me, I now see much of myself in him. When prodded enough, there is his temper; his hesitance in disagreements to admit his part; and his passion and single mindedness for what interests him to the neglect of all else. Fortunately, these are but brief glimpses of who he truly is, for both the Lord and my wife stepped in to the fray and their influences dominate. My boy loves the Lord and seeks His will, has a loving and giving heart, and is the truest friend a person can have: he is honest, faithful, loyal and forgiving.
My son is twenty-one now. He used to need me all the time: tying his shoes, help with school, figuring out the mechanics of things. Now he’s been to Europe, met a lovely young German girl there and gone back to Germany twice more since just to see her. He moved out late last year into a home with two really cool Christian brothers and got a stable, nice paying job working for a Christian owned business. He has really grown up quickly and things have changed just as fast; these days I don’t think he needs me so much as I need him.
I don’t know what the future has in store for him, but God does, and as long as he listens for and seeks His will I know he’ll be just fine. I don’t know what he’ll turn out to be, but I know what he’s become. My son is a man of character, and either slightly because of, or likely more in spite of me, he’s become a far better man than I was at his age and more than I ever hoped he could be. Though he belongs not to me but to the only One worthy of him, I am proud to call him my Boy.