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 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.