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Just like that… January 14, 2012

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Family, Laughter, Love, Parenting/Children, Relationships, Theology.
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We sat down at lunch, as we have at various times over the past five weeks, and he carefully managed the potential disaster-in-the-making known as a Qdoba Chicken Queso Burrito (with Tortilla Soup poured onto the rice). As he somehow avoided spilling a single grain of rice, we laughed at the little children around us (both of us tend to be magnets for kids, as we happily engage them in goofy faces and childish play), and we talked.

We discussed a wide range of topics. Last night, while shopping, we’d discussed the design of intake systems for performance cars (the merits of hood scoops versus cold-air intakes). Today we talked of Facebook, parent-child relationships, and sexuality. In other words, just another typical conversation with one of my sons.

In the middle of his junior year of college and with his older brother married and living 90 miles East of us, you would think that I would be accustomed to my younger son being four hours-away. You would think that him being home for several weeks over the Christmas break wouldn’t create an intense sense of loss as I watched him drive away today. You would think I’d have seen this coming.

You would be wrong.

Mirror, mirror…

Both of my sons, for good or bad, look quite a bit like me. Just yesterday, when my younger son went to get his license renewed, someone who didn’t know him said, “Are you Tim’s son?” The family resemblance is strong enough that a friend of mine from high school, not having seen me for over twenty years, met my older son and immediately asked the same question. Both of my sons have heard “You look so much like your dad” that they’ve long since started to expect to hear it.

Today, as we sat and talked, I noticed that he was briefly distracted, watching someone intently as they walked from the drink dispenser back toward the counter. I turned to look. My son had been distracted by seeing a toddler step away from her mother at the drink dispenser, and wander off looking for her father.

I smiled to myself. The boys don’t just look like me.

“Pass the changing roles please…”

Several years ago, just prior to my father’s death, Dad came to live in our house. During those all-too-short months, some of the most remarkable experiences I had were our late-night conversations about theology. Dad, having been formally trained at a Southern Baptist Seminary, took great joy in wandering down lesser-travelled conversational paths in his search for the truth, and this became even more evident late at night when he would suddenly become unusually talkative.

During one of our more memorable conversations, we were discussing the Biblical story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Dad looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Did you ever wonder what Jesus wrote on the ground?” He was speaking of verse 8, where Jesus writes something in the dirt with his finger, prompting the religious leaders that were about to stone the woman to drop the stones and walk away. Dad continued by saying, “I wonder if he wrote the name of a mistress of one of the men about to stone her, or maybe some other shameful secret that all of them knew.” We never came to any solid conclusions, but I loved having this kind of conversation with him.

Today, sitting across the table from my son, I asked him for his opinion of a project that I was considering. I asked because the project might be considered controversial to some of my theologically conservative friends, and I was concerned about the potential reflection it might have on our church, and who people perceive me to be.

He looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t remember Jesus worrying about spending too much time around prostitutes and tax collectors. It seems to me that he hung around with all sorts of people, and not just the religious ones.” The people in question aren’t prostitutes or tax collectors, but they’re definitely a group that most Christians spend little time on or with. As of now, I haven’t yet decided whether or not to take on the project, but I found my son’s comments thought-provoking, to say the least.

Life Shared vs Barter-dom

As I sat in my car, watching him drive away, I suddenly realized why my own father took such joy in such conversations. It wasn’t because he wanted to pass along some grand theological truth to me. In fact, I doubt that it mattered too much to Dad what it was we talked about.

Dad knew, as I’m beginning to understand, that being intimately connected to someone has little to do with the exchange of favors. We don’t create intimacy and love by saying “If you’ll do ____ for me, I’ll do _____ for you.” Sadly, many relationships are built on such bartering. I know of at least one couple that treats sex this way: “We can have sex if you’ll take out the garbage this week and help me get the house clean.”

Last weekend, my younger son turned 21, and I joked that now my parenting duties were complete. My friends reminded me that there were many more things left for me to take care of, not the least of which would be grandchildren. Even so, him reaching this age does mark an important milestone, and it caught me a bit off guard. He’s on a different road now.

Perhaps it’s my own feelings of mortality, but I was struck by wondering how many more of his birthdays would I be blessed to enjoy? How many more casual lunches would we have where we could pick and choose the topics randomly, completely unconcerned with the need to discuss a particular subject? How much more life would we share?

Road Scholar

Just before I backed out of the parking space and started to drive home, I posted on Facebook, “And just like that, he’s gone again.” I don’t know, as my son officially gets on this particular road, what lies ahead of him, but I feel quite confident of his ability to navigate it well.

As I made my turn and went the other way, I did so with caution, blinking hard. For some reason, my vision had just become quite blurry.


1. Allison - January 14, 2012

That reminds me of a quote I read in ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin: The days are long, but the years are short. And it makes me blinky just thinking about it.

TimTheFoolMan - January 14, 2012

That quote is true. My brother’s version was, “After they turn 13, don’t blink. The years just disappear.”

On the plus side, I now get to enjoy watching two young men who think and look like me, but are both much smarter than I’ll ever be. A close friend once said, “They’re so smart… they glisten.” She was right.

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