I have 54 years of experience at being a son, and 18 years of experience of being the father of one. And today, my son experiences one of those landmark days of life, his graduation from high school, the ol’ Class of 2015. Then, a brief summer respite, followed by college to prepare for the rest of his life.
I doubt he’ll have a spare half hour today, otherwise I’d take him out for dual senior coffees.
Joseph Trenton made his appearance very early one morning, as I struggled to stay awake, and his mother struggled to present him. He was brought home to a house already populated with three sisters, so the dynamic changed somewhat. He was a doll to them, and a bundle of fun for me. Now was the wait for his hand to grow to fit into his first baseball glove.
Along with his siblings and parents, he was baptized into Christ and his Church at age 3. Eventually, “Trent” morphed into “Joe.” Serving as a very young altar boy, he was assigned the name of his Patron, Saint Joseph the Betrothed, and standard operating procedure in the sanctuary was to use your baptismal name. “Joe” stuck in and out of Church, unless he was in trouble, which called for the use of all three of his names.
But that didn’t happen often.
I coached him in little league. He was a pitcher, but after getting plunked by a line drive, decided to try second base. He was a Baron, a Raptor, an Intimidator, and perhaps another member of a team I’ve forgotten. Sometime after we moved from Georgia to Alabama, his sporting allegiance was given to another team, the Crimson Tide.
That I have not forgotten. Or forgiven.
Well, maybe just for today.
We took a long drive once, on a back road somewhere in Tennessee. He was 14. I pulled over, and said, “Here. Take the wheel.” He drove for several miles, and did very well. He would soon get his learner’s permit, followed by his regular license. He drove his Honda Civic to Arby’s, and got his first job. Another company bid for his services, and he went up the ladder. Mr. Free Market, Junior, that one.
He is at home with anyone, hospitable to everyone. Happy to sit and chew the fat with old folks, befriending an outcast at school, or showing some kids how to throw a ball. Liberal with “I love yous,” like, “Dad, I’m going to take a shower now. I love you.”
And singing. My goodness, the singing. Taught himself to play the piano, excelled in his school choir which ultimately won his affections over playing football, and made girls scream like he was Elvis on Ed Sullivan when he sang his solos. But he laughs it off.
And still makes time for the old man.
You have no objectivity at a time like this, I admit. But this is about the finest son any father could have ever possibly have. Never a rebellious phase, never a lick of trouble, never a time when we had any sort of heated exchange. The son any father ever dreams of having. I am that most blessed dad.
He grew into a careful protector of his sisters, and a godfather to a niece and nephew. A bow-tie aficionado, dapper dressed young man, who still asks permission to do the simplest things some kids never asked permission to do in the first place. Always the “sir,” ever the “ma’am,” rudeness simply never a part his fabric, kindness and respect ever present.
Sometimes I would find myself thinking, “Is this kid ever going to do anything to get punished?” You may be thinking, “You’re one naive father.” It’s possible, but it isn’t consistent with his behavior. Anyway, no one can pass a law saying a dad can’t proudly gush over a son.
Actually, I never thought I’d have a son. But not a day has gone by that I wasn’t grateful I do. I couldn’t possibly imagine having a finer man for one.
So today, Joe walks the aisle and collects the old sheepskin. He sings with his choir one last time. He slides the tassle over and says goodbye to one era.
And there I shall sit, the handkerchief already having been deposited in my jacket.
Today I beam and burst. This is one good man, and I am one blessed father.
Congratulations to you, son. I love you. And I am more proud of you than mere words can express.