Saturday, July 18, 2009

These Times We Cherish

I picked up Carson from the Regional Airport in Mobile for his Little League State Baseball Tournament last Friday. He had flown from Orlando, after three days at theme parks, on Delta with a layover in ATL, and he had an escort with him. For Car, it was a big deal riding alone for the first time on a plane, and for me, I was just glad to see that he had made the switch at Hartsfield and, more importantly, to see his little body walking from the ramp. When he was smaller, his whole face would have lit up and he would have run to me for a big hug, but now ten years old, he turned a timid smile my direction when he saw me and held up the Fantasy Football magazine that he had read for the flight. I put my arm around him and gave a squeeze. He did grab my hand, and we walked through the airport holding hands, talking about football, because that was what was on his mind, and that went on until after we had driven away and transitioned into lunch.

The week of baseball was a long one with long days of waiting for games. Once the baseball games started, they were full of highs, lows, and weather delays for the team. Nonetheless, Carson had a great time being a part of the baseball. Baseball, though, was just the excuse for me. These days are passing way too fast.

Fortunately, Carson and I still hug, and he still likes when I grab him and kiss him all over. He laughs and giggles when I grab him from behind and wrestle and tickle him. I got my fill of that walking up and down the hotel halls when it was just the two of us. I don't know what the magic age is when you don't hug or kiss your son anymore, and though it's coming like a locomotive, I'm tossing nails on the tracks and throwing sticks, rocks, straw, dirt, anything I can clutch to try and slow it down. When we went to the Gulf Shores beach on a team trip, Carson asked me to build sand castles with him, and later I buried him in the sand. We also played the "make spectacular catches" game, throwing and catching a football diving in the waves. When other kids joined us, Carson accepted them, but this week, he was happy when it was just him and me. Each trip like this we take now, I wonder if it'll be the last one. We'd work sudokus at night before bed - the hard and challenger ones - and when I wanted to start jotting numbers in the corners, Carson would keep holding me back so we could try to do them just using our heads - not seeing the number puzzles worked out on paper. And almost every night before we turned out the lights when we'd be finishing the numbers, he'd say, "I love you, Dad" with no prompting. I'll never get sick of that. The whole week, Car just surprised me with touching moments, sometimes childlike, sometimes mature beyond his years. I didn't want the trip to end.

Neither did Carson. The last night, we were walking to our room together after the game and had been talking about the Harry Potter movie we had seen with the team earlier in the day. Carson was going to be riding home with his mom, who had arrived to watch the final game or two after her Disney and beach trip, the next day. Just before we got to our room, he broke away from the conversation we had been having and told me, "Dad, I think I'm gonna cry." Although it was sort of out of the blue, I thought I knew what he was talking about.

I might've written this before somewhere here (forgive me if you've heard it before), but when I was in sixth grade, I remember we had some kind of assembly for our whole elementary school (1st to 6th grades back then). At the end, a Sesame Street skit finished the program, and the show's theme played over the loudspeakers. And at the time, the thought occurred to me that I had passed the "Sesame Street" part of my youth. I'd never have it again. And I loved that part of my childhood. Overwhelming sadness sort of floored me, then, and I ran to the bathroom, closed the door of a stall, and wept for the days I'd never have back. Silly maybe, but true.

While not exactly the same, I can't help but think Carson's own thoughts were similar. Something like, this time Dad and I are having - it'll never be like this again. The fact that, if that's what he's thinking, he'd be right kills a part of me inside. I'm old enough now to realize every part of life, and I'm speaking of my kid's lives here, are special. They all have their special parts. Holding him the day he was born. Letting go of his hands for his first steps, or letting go of his bike the first time he rode without training wheels. Comforting him beforehand and then watching him get taken away from the dropoff his first day of school. Pulling in a halibut the size of Carson when fishing on our trip to Alaska a few years back. There have always been special heartfelt moments of togetherness in every life stage. Doubtless, Carson and I will have awesome bonding moments when he's a teenager doing whatever it is he'll be doing, graduating from high school or college, and I won't even mention the m-word. And I've had them and I'll have them with my other son, Davis, and my daughter, Mason, too. None of them are the same, though, and they all leave different imprints on the mind. But if you're not careful, they can also slip your mind.

I don't want to take this time, this specific week we just had, for granted. Ever.


DugALug said...

Thanks for sharing Rich. I didn't realize he was in Orlando!

I really glad you got this 'bonding time' with Car.

God Bless

Milly said...

It’s a good thing as they grow up. I love the times that my children and I have. My son and I spent a bit of time talking when he was in the hospital. I wonder if he remembers the pain killers were goooood. He’s an amazing young man and I cherish every stage of his life but I also morn at the thought of him growing up and away from me.

It’s cool how our littles do that to us with a look and a touch of a hand. My almost 16 year old still gives me hugs and almost kisses, you know air ones, brushing close to my face and the on my ear a couple of weeks ago. He kissed my cheek the other day! I still hear I love.

We are so blessed.