Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Growing up

I dropped Thomas off at school this morning; he had to take his suit along to change into for a mock trial event this evening. It was a clean, wet, cool morning, brightly sunny, full of promise. He stepped out of the car, got the suit out of the back, and paused. I looked back, and he was calling greetings to friends in the parking lot. Then he ducked his head in, said "Thanks, Dad. See you later," and closed the door. As I pulled away, I saw him in the mirror: tall, slim, smiling, holding his suit in one hand, backpack slung over the other shoulder, dressed in a light tan sport jacket and a pink tie. He looked...ready, ready to run with the advantages I now realize that Cathy's planning and pushing have offered him.

I drove away, musing that his four years at Holy Ghost Prep really have seemed to fly by, just as everyone told us they would at the beginning of his freshman year. I remember that first year, when Thomas matured so quickly; he became more responsible about his schoolwork, he showed signs of the strong ethical character that he would develop, and he became more engaged in dinnertime conversation.

I remember his sophomore year, when victory and tragedy struck his life. He won the state championship in his division in forensics (original oratory) in his first real year of competition, and he showed the cheerful nonchalance that's become a signature for his success. Then during a forensics tournament in Boston, his teammate and classmate, Yuriy Tutko, died suddenly in his hotel room. The team came home together, on the train, and we met them at Trenton. The memorial service at the school was tearful and dignified; students from ten schools came to honor Yuriy. Thomas was a pallbearer at the funeral. I saw the man my son was becoming, and felt his grief, and wept with my own confused mix of emotions.

I remember junior year, as the run to college began, and Thomas struggled with school and with forensics. He would finally beat his academic problems into submission and score well on his SATs, and placed in the quarter-finals in a national forensics tournament. Cathy and I stayed at her mother's home near Poughkeepsie and drove two hours at the crack of dawn -- twice -- to watch him compete. He dated, he went to parties, and really became a teenager. Yes, that means he started to develop the independence that's necessary to develop as a person, but no, that's not a codeword for "sullen and contrary." He remained a good kid; more so, if anything.

I don't remember his senior year; he's in it, and the fall is too close for me to think of it as memories. It's yesterday. I do remember our vacation in August, when we toured colleges in New England and tried to have some fun as well. I remember Thomas at Point Judith, Rhode Island, down on the beach, looking at the rocks and shells on the shore, and looking out across the water for a long time. I'd watched him do that in Bar Harbor two years before, and one of our favorite pictures of him, when he was 12, is the boy framed in trees at the edge of Lake Durant in the Adirondacks, stopped in apprehensive wonder as he looks across the lake at the mountains beyond, limned in the light of early morning. A parent often wonders what their child is thinking; it's those moments when Thomas is looking across the water to the horizon that I find that wonder grips me most strongly.

I sometimes miss the little boy I loved 15 years ago, 12 years ago, 10 years ago. He was sweet, and he sat in my lap and would hold my earlobe as he snuggled up and fell asleep. He would listen intently as I read to him. He held my hand when we walked, he hugged me all the time (he still does, a lot, and that's good). I'm sad, sometimes, to think that I will never, ever see that little boy I loved so much again.

But I would not trade him -- not for a day! -- for the man he has become. The man I saw this morning, standing tall, smiling and confident, in the bright January morning.


Forgive a father's ramblings. If you came here this morning looking for beer or whiskey news, or rantings and ravings, I'm sorry; come back soon, because I've got some good stuff coming about the surprising beer scene in northeast Pennsylvania. But I had to write this today, because sometimes a writer has something inside them that they just have to get out. I understand if it's not your cup of tea.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great perspective as always Lew. My daughter is a high school senior as well. While the thought of next year is worrisome and the memories of her growing up plentiful I too am very proud of the lady she has become.

Cooking Lager said...

Lovely stuff.

Mo said...

Understood, Lew. While my son just turned 4, I try to savor every moment and miss the little things that mark his growth from baby to boyhood. You work your hardest to build a man and do a little mourning when it happens. Thank you for sharing; somethings are more important than "this thing" of ours.

Ron said...

Beautifully written. My own daughter is 9 and doing all the things you described about your son doing in the past. Makes me appreciate what I have now.

masterob8 said...

Great post. I read your blog regularly. Exciting to see your son attends HGP, I am also a graduate of Holy Ghost Prep. I am sure my father would agree with your perspective of how the school helps shape boys into men.

Enjoy his senior year while it lasts.

Barbara West said...

Lew, you inspire me.

okbrewer said...

What a handsome lad he is! Must take after Cath! They do grow up too quickly. I can't believe EL is already 19 and finishing her first year of college! I am so glad she didn't go far away to school. I would hate to miss any of those special moments, like last night when she called and said, "Daddy, I'm blue, can we go out to dinner?"
BTW, the other thing Thomas has going for him... a great role model for a dad! Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Lew, I enjoy reading about your family as much as reading about beer news. Please don't change a thing. Thanks!

nate said...

Eesh...that second to last paragraph tied things together well and left a lump in my throat. It is a good admonition to me to enjoy my five kids while their young.

Great piece. It's hard to read a beer blog without really knowing about the author.

Julie Johnson said...

Hey, Lew,
I'm so glad I happened to check your blog today and caught this post. Your son's lucky to have such a dad.

Russ said...

Thanks for the perspective, Lew. As a father of two with a third on the way, I often times find myself wishing they would just hurry up and grow up already (especially days like today when my 11-month-old is teething hardcore and my 3 1/2-year-old has decided to start waking up in the middle of the night crying because she doesn't want to be alone). Sometimes I need a reminder to just enjoy the moment, and this is a great reminder indeed.

Jeff Vitkun said...

Cheers, Lew. That was a nice break from all the talk of spirits.

Anonymous said...

I'm 31 y/o and can be described (much like yourself) as somewhat burly and honestly that post made me well up. Maybe its because it reminded me of my dad - the way he's prepared me to achieve and maybe its because it makes me think about my wife, 4 months pregnant and what the next 18+ years hold for me. Either way - one more reason you help us to reflect on more than beer - thanks

Anonymous said...

Lew,
This is the first blog I read. If you wrote a better one I would like to see it also. Only a proud father or grandfather could have written something so well. Best wishes to Thomas in his future endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Lew
Brought back alot of great memories when people would say hey enjoy they grow up fast now i am the one saying that to people..The journey does not stop at college or after college,remember two years ago when my son finished Penn State and I moved him into his new place in the financial center on wall street after A day of drinking Peroni beer and watching the world cup game in little Italy dropped him off in the middle of the street for a new life,without knowing how to navigate the subway system and his new life ahead of him..
All i thought of that day was how i wished i was able to watch him walk into that investement bank Merrill Lynch for the first time,all the memeroies and soccer games and the good and bad times came back like it was yesterday,so at 26 years old the journey is still going on...
Cheers

sam k said...

Damn, that's a good looking fella! No apologies necessary. You done good, and you should be proud. Congratulations to you, Cathy, Thomas, and Nora.

Nice work, Brysons!

Rich said...

What a terrific piece of writing. With that singular Bryson knack for being compelling. Tugs a person in all the right places. Whew.

Ron Pattinson said...

Lovely piece, Lew.

Spencer said...

They grow up too d**n fast. My twins (a boy & a girl) went to college last fall. I remember thinking "Where did 18 years go so fast?!"

When they came home for xmas, the change was evident. One event really struck me: we went to dinner at friends', and they both held their own during the "adult" conversation. As they went back to their respective colleges (hundreds of miles away), I realized that though our home will still house them at times in the future, it will never be "home" in the same way.

Anonymous said...

Lew, I honestly welled up reading this. I'm not sure if it's that it reminded me of my own dad and the support he has always given me to acheive and succeed or if it's that, at age 31, my wife is 4 months pregnant with our first, and this made me think of what I have to look forward to over the next 18 plus years. Either way, very good stuff, touching.

Anonymous said...

hey lew i have no interest in kids at all but your a good writer so i dont mind when you do stuff like this at all .

r said...

Thanks.

It's important to stop sometimes and smell the roses.

Loren said...

Heartwarming story Lew. Thanks for sharing. Also glad to hear your Dad is doing well these days.

Cheers!

BTW, recall...Kids first...everything else can wait.

Anonymous said...

That was awesome Lew,
I have 4&1/2 year old twin girls that hold my hand, hug me tightly, and have brought amazing joy to my wife and I.
I cant imagine what it will feel like when my wife and I are no longer the most important things in they're life.
Really enjoyed that read.

Ross Reid said...

Seeing that picture of Thomas, "all growed up" made me realize just how long it's been since we last met at the "Woolie" in Guelph.
Also made me stop and think about how old and how lucky we are. Gerry and I now have 3 great-grandkids.
Best wishes. May that long lost Arrow be found and fly again.
Ross & Gerry in Ontario.

Lew Bryson said...

Cheers, Ross, great to hear from you! Not a bad day when someone brings up the Woolie, either... Great-grandkids, wow. Hope you're still enjoying your drink. Best to you and Gerry.

Keep the faith on the Arrow!

Felicia D'Ambrosio said...

That's beautiful. It made me cry. My own dad is not very expressive but it gave me a little peek into the "mind of a dad".

Thanks, Lew.

Lew Bryson said...

Truth be told, Felicia, it put a lump in my throat the first few times I read it. I've got two really great kids, and it humbles me that I had something to do with it. Truly.